Letting the People Decide: Dynamics of a Canadian Election


316 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-0944-5
DDC 324.971'0647




Reviewed by Ian A. Andrews

Ian A. Andrews is a high-school social sciences teacher and editor of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association’s Focus.


Elections have become increasingly complicated in this age of
technological innovation. What used to be relatively simple
contests—candidates going door to door, holding rallies, and making
long speeches that outlined their policies—has become a media war of
30-second sound bites, photo opportunities, and “spin doctors.”

What factors determine who will win? Does the election campaign matter
or have minds been made up in advance? What role do polls serve during
an election? Do the traits of the party leader matter, and are leader
debates important? Does political advertising really persuade voters?
These are some of the many questions raised in this examination of the
1988 Canadian federal election campaign, which featured heated debate
and polarization of opinion on the proposed Free Trade Agreement between
Canada and the United States. The data for this study were produced from
what is referred to as a “rolling cross section,“ in which between
70 and 80 random telephone interviews were made each day of the
campaign. Numerous charts, graphs, and tables show the results, while
the text attempts to explain the results, employing the jargon of the
political scientist.

The authors use so many variables to determine how and why people voted
as they did that they end up with more questions than answers for the
reader. Appendixes explain the approaches taken in this complicated look
at the dynamics of the Canadian electoral system. This book is for the
academic, not for those looking for an easy read.


Johnston, Richard., “Letting the People Decide: Dynamics of a Canadian Election,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/29193.