- Comment on book review by Maurice Pinard-Volume 28(4): 581-4
Professor Pinard's comments on our recent publication, Les raisons fortes. Nature et signification de l'appui à la souveraineté du Québec (2002), were generally favourable. His report however is scattered with strange biases pertaining to the facts and to our interpretations of them. In just three short pages he manages to give the impression that some results are not coherent. We would like to comment further so as to avoid any misunderstandings.
On the one hand, the various analyses of poll data pertaining to the support of sovereignty in Quebec have generally used a descriptive approach of the variables or tried to define the psychological profiles of voters. We, on the other hand, wanted to propose a sociological analysis of the reasons that brought the citizens to support René Lévesque's project. These reasons stem from a particular social area, the outlines of which we broadly defined.
Our research began with a simple question. We knew that Anglophones and Allophones were massively on the NO side, we also knew that only one third of elderly Francophones supported the YES side, and that elderly women were even less inclined to vote YES. We then asked ourselves : were did the 49.4% referendum YES votes come from ? It seemed obvious that the YES side must have had a large support in the rest of the French-speaking population to reach such a strong proportion, and that is what we wanted to measure and analyse. More important, we then built a theoretical framework that would allow us not only to explain the support to the YES vote by the main bearers of the sovereignty movement, but also the prevalence of the support to the NO side amongst the other groups.
In other words, we theorized that a certain type of social actors had strong reasons to support the sovereignist option — the bearer of the sovereignty movement — but also that other types had reasons for being against it. We then characterized these social types according to four empirical indicators that were susceptible to correspond to the main reasons for supporting the YES side. So, when Professor Pinard summarizes our purpose by saying that "this book constitutes an attempt to identify the social grouping which is the main bearer [End Page 488] of the sovereignty movement in Quebec and to develop a theory about the strong reasons of its members to do so", he is right, but our conceptual framework allows us to also explain why other groups of citizens were opposed to the movement. Elderly, retired, wealthy Anglophone citizens have at least four reasons to support the NO side. Less than 5 % voted YES in this group while, at the opposite end of the scale, among French-speaking workers and students, 55 years of age or less, with non-poor incomes — that is the main bearer of the movement and represents 45 % of the total population — the support for the YES side was finally very high on October 31, 1995 (71.3%), but not high enough to compensate the weaker support in other types.
"Narrow set of data", criticizes Professor Pinard. On the contrary, we had access to 27 Léger Marketing polls that reached 23,796 persons and, because the data were standardized, we were able to follow the evolution of the phenomena through time. Moreover, we had four identical polls that were taken each week that the referendum campaign lasted. These results were very valuable as they allowed us to single out : (1) the considerable and statistically significant mobilization of the main bearer group in favour of the YES vote and (2) the defection of the elder French Canadians still attached to Canada and/or afraid of the unknown. Contrary to Professor Pinard, we had no access to the expensive surveys that the Federal Government ran but our data were valid and reliable enough to run a secondary analysis which enabled us to confront the predictions based on our theory.
Professor Pinard adds : "The authors also examine in detail...