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Riding the Orange Wave: Leadership, Values, Issues, and the 2011 Canadian Election

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2014

Patrick Fournier*
Université de Montréal
Fred Cutler
University of British Columbia
Stuart Soroka
McGill University
Dietlind Stolle
McGill University
Éric Bélanger
McGill University
Patrick Fournier, Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship, Département de science politique, Université de Montréal, Pavillon Lionel-Groulx, C.P. 6128, Succ. Centre-ville, Montréal QC, H3C 3J7,


Abstract. The results of the 2011 Canadian federal election were surprising. What accounts for the dramatic and largely unexpected shift in electoral fortunes? Most importantly, what accounts for the sudden leap in popularity of the New Democratic Party, particularly in Quebec? The aftermath of election day produced no lack of potential explanations. Pundits, politicians, and political scientists have suggested many. This paper examines the empirical validity of various explanations swirling about the 2011 election, especially regarding the “orange surge.” The analysis relies upon the 2011 Canadian Election Study and the content of news media coverage. It concludes that the most important factors behind the orange wave were the image gap between Jack Layton and the other party leaders, as well as the proximity between the NDP's values and issue positions and those of many Quebeckers.

Résumé. Le résultat de l'élection fédérale canadienne de 2011 a été surprenant. Comment expliquer les renversements dramatiques et largement inattendus dans les appuis aux partis politiques? Surtout, comment expliquer le bond soudain de popularité du Nouveau parti démocratique, particulièrement au Québec? Plusieurs explications potentielles ont été suggérées par les commentateurs, les politiciens et les politologues au lendemain de l'élection. Cet article examine la validité empirique de nombreuses explications entourant l'élection de 2011, notamment celles portant sur la « vague orange ». L'analyse repose sur l'Étude électorale canadienne de 2011 ainsi que sur le contenu de la couverture médiatique. Elle indique que les facteurs les plus importants à l'origine de la vague orange ont été l'écart entre l'image de Jack Layton et celle des autres chefs de partis, de même que la proximité entre le NPD et plusieurs Québécois quant aux valeurs et aux enjeux.

Research Article
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association 2013 

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