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Religious Symbols, Multiculturalism and Policy Attitudes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 August 2016

Dietlind Stolle*
McGill University
Allison Harell*
Université du Québec à Montréal
Stuart Soroka*
University of Michigan
Jessica Behnke*
Department of Political Science and Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke West, Montreal QC H3A2T7, Canada, Email:
Département de science politique, Université du Québec à Montréal, Case postale 8888, succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal QC H3C 3P8, Canada, Email:
Institute for Social Research (ISR), University of Michigan, Room 4448, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor MI 48104–2321, United States, Email:
Addictions and Mental Health Ontario, 2002-180 Dundas St. West, Toronto ON M5 G 1Z8, Email:


Multicultural policy is an increasingly salient, and contested, topic in both academic and public debate about how to manage increasing ethnic diversity. In spite of the longstanding commitment to multiculturalism policy in Canada, however, we have only a partial understanding of public attitudes on this issue. Current research tends to look at general attitudes regarding diversity and accommodation–rarely at attitudes towards specific multicultural policies. We seek to (partly) fill this gap. In particular, we focus on how support for multiculturalism policy varies across benefit types (for example, financial and other) and the ethnicity/religiosity of recipient groups. Using a unique survey experiment conducted within the 2011 Canadian Election Study (CES), we examine how ethnic origin (Portuguese vs. Turkish) and religious symbols (absence and presence of the hijab) influence support for funding of ethno-religious group activities and their access to public spaces. We also explore whether citizens’ general attitudes toward cultural diversity moderate this effect. Results provide important information about the state of Canadian public opinion on multiculturalism, and more general evidence about the nature, authenticity and limits of public support for this policy.


La politique du multiculturalisme est un sujet de plus en plus saillant et contesté, tant dans le milieu universitaire que dans le débat public portant sur la gestion d'une plus grande diversité ethnique. Malgré un engagement de longue durée envers la politique du multiculturalisme au Canada, nous n'avons qu'une compréhension partielle de l'opinion publique face à cet enjeu. La recherche tend à se concentrer sur les attitudes générales à l’égard de la diversité et des accommodements, et porte rarement sur les attitudes envers les politiques spécifiques du multiculturalisme. Nous cherchons à adresser (partiellement) cette carence de la littérature. Nous examinons en particulier le soutien pour les politiques du multiculturalisme en fonction du type de programmes sociaux (par exemple, financier versus autres) ainsi que l'ethnicité/religiosité des bénéficiaires. En utilisant une expérience incluse dans l’Étude électorale canadienne (EEC) de 2011, nous testons l'effet de l'origine ethnique (portugaise versus turque) et des symboles religieux (présence ou absence de hijab) sur l'appui aux politiques de soutien financier pour les activités des groupes ethno-religieux et de leur accès à l'espace public. Nous explorons également comment les attitudes générales envers la diversité modèrent ces effets. Les résultats nous fournissent de l'information importante sur l’état de l'opinion publique canadienne envers le multiculturalisme, ainsi que la nature, l'authenticité et les limites du soutien populaire pour cette politique.

Research Article
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 2016 

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