Quebec Studies

Generational Replacement, Value Shifts, and Support for a Sovereign Quebec

Quebec Studies (2004), 37, (1), 23–43.

Abstract

23 Generational Replacement, Value Shifts, and Support for a Sovereign Quebec1 Scott Piroth Bowling Green State University This article examines the values of different generations of Quebecers and considers how values influence whether Quebecers support or oppose sov­ ereignty. My previous research has demonstrated that supporters of sover­ eignty are more likely than are opponents of sovereignty to share certain values, such as moral permissiveness and egalitarianism. These values are most prevalent among Quebecers born after 1945, and there is reason to believe that a value shift resulting from generational replacement will in­ crease support for a sovereign Quebec in the future as older generations are replaced by younger generations with different values. On the other hand, the youngest generations of Quebecers tend to be less interested in politics and to have less confidence in the ability of governments to solve societal problems. Consequently, it may be very difficult for any political movement to mobilize younger Quebecers. Using data from the 2000 Canadian Election Study (CES) and other public opinion surveys, this article explores the values of different genera­ tions of Quebecers that may influence them to support or oppose sover­ eignty. My analysis is limited to Francophones — defined as those who speak French at home — because this is the group that provides the constit­ uency for the sovereigntist movement. Those whose first language is Eng­ lish are almost unanimously opposed to sovereignty, and those whose primary language is neither French nor English are highly unlikely to sup­ port sovereignty.2 One should be careful, however, not to confuse language and ethnicity in Quebec. My sample does include French-speakers of nonFrench ethnicity — including many immigrants and children of immigrants. Recent studies demonstrate that the gap between Quebecers of French eth­ nicity and Quebecers of other ethnicities regarding support for sovereignty is narrowing rapidly (Lavoie and Serré). In 1997, for example, 57 percent of Quebec Francophones of French ethnicity supported sovereignty, whereas 49 percent of Quebec Francophones of other ethnicities supported sover­ eignty.3 Age and Support for Sovereignty I have divided Quebecers into four generations for the purpose of this analysis: Older Quebecers (those born prior to 1945), Baby Boomers (those born between 1945 and 1959), Generation Xers (those born between 1960 and 1974), and (where data permit) Generation Y (those born in 1975 and after).4 Although all methods of dividing people into generations or age cohorts are artificial, there is logic behind this particular division. Those Quebecers born between 1945 and 1959 attained maturity during the 1960s and early 1970s— a period of great political change in Quebec, marked by the Quiet Révolu- Québec Studies, Volume 37, Spring/Summer 2004

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Piroth, Scott