Using data based on Quebec municipalities with more than 20,000 inhabitants, this article tests the hypothesis that the conjunction of economic conditions and labour unrest contributed significantly to the defeat of the Liberal party in the 1976 Quebec election. This hypothesis, suggested by the results of the election polls, follows from the conceptual framework furnished by political economy models. These models and the controversies they have given rise to are discussed first from a theoretical perspective. This discussion is followed by a brief review of empirical studies which could shed light on these controversies. Much of the theoretical discussion and most of the empirical results suggest that economic conditions generally have a significant influence on election results.
In the second part of the article, after a methodological discussion, we present the results of empirical tests conducted to examine our hypothesis about the influence of economic conditions on the November 1976 general election in Quebec. These results show that increased “fiscal pressure” between 1975 and 1976, union unrest, and the unemployment rate in 1976 had significant negative effects on the Liberal vote.
We conclude by raising questions about the effect economic factors could have on the results of the referendum on sovereignty-association.