While a majority of Canadians say they don’t care about a politician being a visible minority when voting for the country’s leader, a new Angus Reid poll suggests about three-in-ten voters also say being a practising Sikh might hurt new NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s chances in an election.
The study looked to gauge how Canadians feel when it comes to voting for the new federal NDP leader based on his religion and visible characteristics as a Sikh man.
Singh won the federal New Democratic Party leadership in September, becoming the first visible minority to lead a major Canadian political party. He won without holding a seat in the House.
On voting for a visibly looking Sikh man
Of about 1,400 people surveyed, seven-in-ten Canadians out of B.C., Alberta and Ontario responded to the poll saying they themselves would consider voting for a national party leader who wears a turban and carries a kirpan.
Respondants out of Quebec showed the greatest hesitancy in voting for a Sikh man, with about half saying they wouldn’t vote for such a person, regardless of their policies.
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Broken down by age, almost 40 per cent of those aged 55 and older said they couldn’t support such a leadership, as well as 40 per cent of Conservative Party supporters.
The survey also touched on perceptions Canadians as a whole feel towards a Sikh prime minister.
Asked to think about how their close friends and family members would vote, half said either “most” or “some” of the people in their lives wouldn’t favour a visible minority leader. When asked about “society as a whole,” respondents said they suspect 80 per cent would not show their support in the voting booth.
On if religion will get in the way for voters
Visible aspects aside, when asked if Singh’s religion will hurt the NDP’s electoral chances, 54 per cent of respondents said it would.
The pushback was found to be strongest in Quebec, where debates over public officials wearing religious symbols and accommodating religious minorities are part of both recent history and an ongoing political process.
Two-thirds of that province agree with the statement about Singh’s religion hurting his party’s electoral standing. Atlantic Canada is the only other region where more than 50 per cent agree.