(Version française disponible ici.)

In a previous article, we demonstrated that Quebecers are generally more pessimistic about the state of the French language than they were 20 or 30 years ago, even if they tend to be a little more confident economically.

This perception may be related to another remarkable trend that emerges when we look at the evolution of the perceptions that French-speaking Quebecers have of the way English Canadians view them.

Indeed, as Figure 1 shows, French-speaking Quebecers feel that they are looked down on by English-speaking Canadians, and this feeling is at an all-time high.

When French-speaking Quebecers were asked whether English-speaking Canadians consider them to be inferior, 54 per cent felt this was the case in the 1980 and 1995 referendum years. This proportion rose to 61 per cent in 1996 following the failure of the second referendum on sovereignty, and remained at the same level in 2001.

By early 2022, this proportion had reached the highest level yet: almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of French-speaking Quebecers think English Canadians consider them inferior.

As we did in the first part of this analysis, we examine the factors associated with this feeling among francophone Quebecers. Once again, our comparison will be limited to 2022 and 2001. The use of many of the same questions in both surveys allows us to model the responses and more accurately analyze the effect of socio-demographic factors and opinions on federalism to francophone Quebecers’ perceptions of this issue.

As was the case with perceptions of threats to the French language, there has been a major shift in the impact that a university education has on the question of whether English Canadians see French Canadians as inferior.

In 2001, having a university degree greatly reduced the probability of thinking that anglophones consider francophones to be inferior (these probabilities were 48 per cent for university graduates, compared to 64 per cent and 69 per cent for those with a high school and CEGEP education, respectively). In 2022, this difference between university graduates and others disappears completely: the probability of agreeing with the statement is between 73 per cent and 75 per cent.

There is also a change in the relationship between voting intention and this question, and the magnitude of this change varies by party. As Figure 3 shows, in 2001, intending to vote for the Parti Québécois (PQ) made people more likely to agree (69 per cent). In 2022, supporting the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ)  is most strongly associated with the probability of agreeing with the statement, at 83 per cent.

As the first part of the analysis showed, based on our model, CAQ supporters are less likely than PQ supporters to think that French is threatened in Quebec. In essence, CAQ supporters are relatively less worried than PQ supporters about the state of the French language, but a bit more upset about how they think they are viewed by English Canadians.

One might also ask how the intention to vote for the CAQ is different from support for its predecessor, the Action dĂ©mocratique du QuĂ©bec (ADQ), on this issue. Like the CAQ, the ADQ presented itself as a third option between PQ sovereignty and Liberal federalism. However, for the statement that anglophones look down on francophones, support for the ADQ is nothing like an intention to vote for the CAQ. In 2001, support for the ADQ increased the likelihood of agreeing with the inferiority statement very little, barely more than supporting the Liberals. That said, the gap between yesterday’s ADQ and today’s CAQ may also be the result of a change in era, as there is similar change even among Liberal voters.

This last result may seem counterintuitive, but it should be remembered that we are focusing on the opinions of French-speaking Quebecers. Moreover, when we look at the relationship between agreement with the inferiority statement and perceptions of federalism, we see a similar pattern: among those who see more advantages than disadvantages to federalism, the likelihood of agreeing with the idea that English Canadians  view French Canadians as inferior increased between 2001 and 2022. (One note: the proportion of French-speaking Quebecers who see more advantages than disadvantages to federalism has decreased in the interim).

Paradoxically, as noted earlier, somewhat fewer Quebecers believe that francophones in Quebec are economically dominated by anglophones. Nevertheless, no matter how you look at it, French-speaking Quebecers think that English Canadians look down on them, much more so than in the past, even during the great constitutional debates of the 1980s and 1990s.

The reactions outside Quebec to Bill 96 and, before it, Bill 21 on religious symbols may have contributed to this feeling. The controversy surrounding the most recent federal leaders’ debate, during which the moderator took Bloc QuĂ©bĂ©cois leader Yves-François Blanchet to task, may also have contributed.

These findings are striking and will certainly have an important influence on the political dynamics in Quebec – and Canada – for the next few years, starting with the election that will be held in Quebec in October.

 Methodological notes:

The results are based on a series of six logistic regression models (one per year, per question). These models allow us to present the impact of each of the factors included in the models (age, education, gender) as average changes in the probability of agreeing with the statement. In other words, we can estimate the impact of moving from the 18-34 age group to the 35-54 age group on the probability of considering that the French language is threatened in Quebec for each of the respondents in the sample, without changing their other characteristics (age, education, voting, etc.). Since moving from one age group to another will not have the same effect for everyone, due to the other variables included in the model, we then average the effect of this change for the whole sample. It is these results that we report in the text. 

The authors wish to thank Maurice Pinard, who was a pioneer in the use of these survey questions and in the study of the evolution of Quebec society.

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Charles Breton
Charles Breton is the executive director of the Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation at the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) and the former research director at Vox Pop Labs. He holds a PhD from the University of British Columbia. Follow him on Twitter: @charlesbreton
Andrew Parkin
Andrew Parkin is the executive director of the Environics Institute for Survey Research. Find him on Twitter: @parkinac
Justin Savoie
Justin Savoie is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Toronto. His research interests include Canadian politics and statistical methods in the social sciences.

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