I've been pilloried for a column I wrote earlier this week suggesting that older voters could play a key role in defeating the upcoming transit plebiscite in the Lower Mainland.
Among the sobriquets thrown my way were "moron" and "ignorant little twerp". How endearing!
The progressive Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives joined in the chorus of condemnation, saying the "misinformation" in the article was "inflammatory and incorrect".
I've even been accused of whipping up intergenerational conflict as people have focused on seniors and not on wealthy, car-driving, aging, male baby boomers who tend to vote Conservative and who are among those most likely to vote no in the transit plebiscite.
Here are some facts.
• A recent poll by Insights West revealed that 58 percent of those 55 years of age and older intend on voting no in the transit plebiscite. That's the highest among any age cohort.
• Women are equally divided on the plebiscite, whereas 61 percent of men plan on voting no, according to Insights West.
• In municipalities south of the Fraser River, there was the lowest percentage of yes voters.
The most likely no voters, therefore, are older men who live in the part of the Lower Mainland with the highest percentage of Conservative voters.
Now, let's look at year-end poll results from the Angus Reid Institute. They revealed that the federal Conservatives' strongest support comes from voters who are 55 years of age and older. According to the Angus Reid Institute, the Conservatives have "relative strength with middle-aged and older voters".
The Conservatives' gender gap was six percent—i.e. 37 percent of men but only 31 percent of women supported the party, according to the poll.
When respondents were asked who would make the best prime minister, 33 percent of men but only 26 percent of women replied "Stephen Harper". It's another sign of the Conservatives' gender gap.
Therefore, I've concluded that the most likely people to vote Conservative in the next federal election are older men.
Are you seeing a pattern here between the Conservatives' base and those most likely to vote no in the transit plebiscite?
Social scientists would describe this as a correlation. That's the degree to which two or more attributes—in this case age and gender—show a tendency to vary together.
This is not a cause and effect.
It simply means that being 55 years of age and older and being male indicates a higher likelihood of voting Conservative and voting no in the transit plebiscite.
It does not mean that all people 55 years or older will vote no. Nor does it mean that all people 55 years or older will vote Conservative. It would be foolhardy to suggest something like that.
This simple analysis does not account for differences between those who use transit and those who don't, although men are more likely to be drivers in our society. It also does not suggest that every Conservative supporter will vote no or that every non-Conservative supporter will vote yes.
Earlier this year in an interview with the Straight, SFU professor emeritus Donald Gutstein highlighted the links between the no campaign and the federal Conservatives.
Obviously in addition to young people, there are also many poor seniors who rely on transit and who are planning on voting yes. They're going to get the shaft from a no vote, but the biggest impact will be felt by younger people simply by virtue of how reliant they are on the transportation system to become educated and earn a living.
I'm also aware that some seniors are being kicked out of their homes because of rezoning decisions by various municipal councils. Other seniors are eating dreadful food in publicly funded hospitals. They have my sympathy.
But at the same time, there is also a fair number of healthy and wealthy male executives and homeowners living in the suburbs in their late 50s and early 60s who can afford a 0.5 percent increase in the sales tax to fund better transportation for young people, but who still plan on voting no. Many of these no voters form part of the Conservative base. And by voting this way, I would argue that these people are not giving much consideration to intergenerational equity.