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The Conservatives’ Bullshit Niqab Ban Might Be Popular, But It Cost Them Votes, Poll Shows

The election's worst fucking issue probably helped the Liberals, in the end.
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA
October 16, 2015, 5:05pm

Photo via Flickr user David Dennis

Capping off a 72-day clusterfuck/dumpsterfire of an election, a new Forum Research poll shows that, while the Islamophobic policy requiring women to remove their head-covering before taking the oath of citizenship might be popular, at least it didn't actually motivate people to vote. Thank fuck.

The poll, provided in advance to VICE, shows that 58 percent of the country opposes allowing women to wear the niqab during citizenship ceremonies, while just 31 percent support allowing it.

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The issue has become a wedge for the Conservatives and Bloc to split the NDP's vote in Quebec. Unsurprisingly, 84 percent of Conservatives and 94 percent of Bloquists are opposed to allowing women to wear clothing on their head while they take the entirely ceremonial oath of citizenship.

The poll shows the issue has made for unlikely bedfellows—both Quebec and Alberta are predominantly opposed to the niqab. Atlantic Canada and the prairies, weirdly, are the most supportive of letting women keep their clothes on.

The most depressing part of the poll is that, when educated on the matter, respondents didn't change their mind.

Forum pointed out that all would-be citizens, before they take their oath of citizenship, have to unveil—in private—in order to get a passport photo. "Knowing this, do you favour or oppose allowing women to wear the niqab during citizenship ceremonies?" the poll asked.

FIfty-nine percent still opposed allowing women to wear the niqab, while 34 supported it.

Forum tried again: "One new Canadian who wears the niqab recently won the legal right to swear her citizenship oath privately before a judge. Is this an acceptable or unacceptable compromise to unveiling for the citizenship ceremony?"

The numbers budged, but just barely. 52 percent found it unacceptable, 40 percent said it was an OK compromise.

VICE Canada had input on the Forum questionnaire used in the poll.

The results show that: yeah, Canadians are pretty much cool with discriminating against women who wear the niqab.

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The silver lining is that opinions are shifting, if only slightly. The last time Forum asked these questions, in March, just 22 percent were in favour of letting women sport the headscarf that covers their face. Now, it's nearly ten percent higher.

Forum went on and asked about another crackpot idea: do you support or oppose allowing federal public servants wearing the niqab at work?

Sixty-two percent said, no, they don't support it. Just 29 percent said they do.

The Conservatives have said they are considering that policy, should they be re-elected.

But it seems like Stephen Harper's race-baiting policy might not have gone over so well.

Forum asked whether the Conservatives' position on the niqab had an impact on voters' political preference. And it found that, yeah, it sort of did. Sixteen percent said it moved their decision at the ballot box.

The numbers show the effects were largely scattershot—nine percent said they swapped their vote from the NDP to the Conservatives, 12 percent said they switched from the Liberals to the Conservatives, while another 12 percent said they went from the Conservatives to the NDP—but the biggest move was, surprisingly, from the Conservatives to the Liberals.

While the sample size for this is obviously quite low—231 people overall—23 percent of them said they moved their vote from the Conservatives to the Liberals.

Justin Trudeau, obviously, has been a vocal critic of Harper's play on the niqab.

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Another 21 percent of Quebecers (again, only about 38 people) said they were now voting for the Bloc Quebecois over their support for the policy.

Forum also asked about another religious issue that popped up during the campaign—whether Ottawa had been prioritizing Christian refugees from Syria, over Muslim refugees.

The numbers Forum found don't paint a clear picture. Canadians appeared generally unaware of the story, and weren't convinced that the Harper government was really leveraging one religious minority over another. Generally, though, they didn't like the idea of it—54 percent said they would disapprove of such a policy.

The poll was conducted between October 13 and 14, and questioned 1,438 randomly-selected Canadians. It is considered accurate +/- 3 percent, 19 times out of 20.

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