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Candidate Messaging on Religious Issues in the 2016–17 Conservative Party of Canada Leadership Race

  • Paul E. J. Thomas (a1) and Jerald Sabin (a2)


This article examines candidate emails from the 2016–17 Conservative Party of Canada leadership race to explore how candidates communicated with party supporters on issues of moral traditionalism (for example, abortion and sexuality diversity) and minority religious accommodation. We find that the level of public support for a given policy position shaped how overtly candidates signalled their views, with those supporting moral traditionalism or restrictions on religious minorities tending to express their views covertly and vice versa. Message overtness also changed following the deadline for new members to join the party before the vote. This article marks the first systematic study of how party leadership candidates attempt to solicit support from particular party factions and how candidates’ appeals evolve throughout a campaign. The results also show that the high-profile debate around minority religious accommodation during the leadership race did not displace contestation between candidates over issues such as sexual or reproductive rights.

Cet article examine les courriels des candidats de la course à la direction du Parti conservateur du Canada de 2016–2017 afin d'examiner comment ces derniers communiquaient avec les militants sur des questions de traditionalisme moral (p. ex. l'avortement et la diversité sexuelle) et d'accommodement religieux des minorités. Nous constatons que le niveau d'appui du public à une position politique donnée a influencé la façon dont les candidats ont ouvertement exprimé leurs opinions, les partisans du traditionalisme moral ou des restrictions imposées aux minorités religieuses ayant tendance à exprimer secrètement leurs opinions et vice-versa. Le dépassement du message a également changé après la date limite pour l'adhésion de nouveaux membres au parti avant le vote. Le présent document constitue la première étude systématique de la façon dont les candidats à la direction d'un parti tentent de solliciter l'appui de factions particulières d'un parti et de l'évolution des appels des candidats tout au long d'une campagne. Les résultats montrent également que le débat très médiatisé sur l'accommodement religieux des minorités pendant la course à la direction n'a pas déplacé la contestation entre les candidats sur des questions telles que les droits sexuels ou génésiques.


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