Quebec Studies

Book Reviews

Quebec Studies (2002), 34, (1), 87–94.


87 Book Reviews Political Science, History, and Sociology GAGNÉ, GILLES, and SIMON LANGLOIS. Les raisons fortes: Nature et signification de l'appui à la souveraineté du Québec. Montréal: Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 2002. Pp. 187. In this brief, well-argued essay, Gilles Gagné and Simon Langlois construct a sociological profile of the sovereignty movement in Quebec. Examining data from twenty-seven surveys conducted by the Montreal polling firm, Léger Marketing, between 1995 and 2001, the authors contend that recent reports of the imminent demise of the sovereignty option have been greatly exaggerated, for at least three reasons. First of all, they point out that there is a huge difference between asking voters in a telephone survey how they would cast their ballots on some hypothetical referendum question and the actual behavior of these voters during the heat of a referendum campaign. Secondly, Gagné and Langlois observe that at least some, and probably a great deal, of the current disillusionment with the sovereignty option reflects short-term unhappiness with the governing Parti Québécois. Thirdly, the authors stress the fact that the supporters of sovereignty constitute a real social movement, one that has pushed its roots deep into Quebec society over the last forty years. This kind of social movement, they believe, is not likely to disappear in the space of a couple of years. The authors' basic contention is that the different social and economic situations of various groups of voters in Quebec provide them with com­ pelling reasons, les raisons fortes, either to support or oppose the sovereignty project. One of the great advantages of this approach is that it enables Gagné and Langlois to deal dispassionately with the overwhelming opposition of anglophone and allophone voters, especially those over the age of fifty-five, to the idea of Quebec sovereignty. This is viewed as a purely rational re­ sponse on the part of these groups of voters, given their socioeconomic loca­ tion, rather than as some tribalistic reflex or conspiracy, as Jacques Parizeau and Yves Michaud, among others, have occasionally argued. Using the data provided by Léger Marketing, which yields an aggre­ gated sample of some 24,000 cases, Gagné and Langlois create a typology of voters based on a number of key sociological assumptions. First, they contend, not surprisingly, that Francophones will be the principal de­ fenders of the sovereignty project. Secondly, they argue that voters who were socialized politically before the Quiet Revolution view themselves as French Canadians and are therefore less inclined to support the notion of Quebec sovereignty than Québécois voters who came of age during the 1960s and after. Thirdly, supporters of the sovereignty project must be able to "project themselves into the future" (26); they need to take political— and therefore economic—risks. For this, they need a certain economic margin for manoeuvre: voters who are retired or otherwise removed from the workforce (homemakers and those on social assistance, for instance)

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