The first-ever national survey of pro-family supporters has found, not surprisingly, that those who subscribe to the pro-life ethic place a high priority on religion; are well educated and politically active.
The survey, conducted by York University sociologist Lorna Erwin as part of her Ph.D. project, complements an earlier series of in-depth interviews she conducted with leaders in the pro-life, pro-family movements. The people surveyed came from a random sampling of those on The Interim mailing list and satisfying 75 per cent response was obtained.
Reasons for becoming involved in the pro-family cause are, naturally enough, dominated by concern about the abortion issue (cited 99.5 per cent). Support for traditional values was cited as very important by 67 per cent; concern about pornography by 62 per cent; concern about the spread of secular humanism by 55 per cent; concern about the influences of the homosexual movement 52 per cent; concern about the influences of the feminist movement 48 per cent; and concern about sex education in the schools, 46 per cent.
Pro-life, pro-family supporters are activists. 94 per cent said they have donated money; 76 per cent have contacted MPs expressing their views on the issues; 63 per cent have attended rallies and meetings; while 48 per cent have demonstrated at clinics or hospital performing abortions.
40 per cent want change
It is clear that involvement in this cause has led to political involvement. 72 per cent said that they had not been active in political organizations or activities before they became active in the pro-family movement.
Although 86 per cent think that the federal conservative government has not “significantly enhanced the prospects” of the cause, respondents were fairly evenly split on whether or not a new federal political party would be effective. 40 per cent thought a new federal party would be appropriate, but 37 per cent said no, saying that it would be divisible and could not win an election. 23 per cent of respondents had no opinion. (The survey did not mention the federal Christian Heritage Party.)
Asked how they would vote if a federal election were held today, and which party they traditionally supported, 55 per cent and 32 per cent respectively said they would support the strongest pro-life candidate no matter what party. Another 25 per cent identified themselves as conservatives (only 11 per cent would vote conservative if an election were held today); 22 per cent said they were Liberals (10 percent would vote liberal today). 2 per cent said they were NDP and would vote for the party today.
Pro-family supporters seem to have a jaundiced view of government. 65 per cent agreed with the statement “those elected to parliament soon lose touch with the people” (26 per cent disagreed). 56 per cent agreed with he statement that “I don’t think the government cares much what people like us think” (38 per cent disagreed). 49 per cent said that the political process is so complicated that they don’t understand what’s going on. 52 per cent thought that the public could influence government actions, while 43 per cent thought the average person had no say in the government.
Pro-family supporters have definite attitudes towards feminism. 89 per cent believe that “feminism has led to a devaluation of motherhood: and 86 feel it had “undermined the traditional family.’’ 68 per cent see feminists as career women “who don’t understand the needs of homemakers.” Respondents ere split over whether or not feminism has “contributed to an improvement in the statues of women”: 40 per cent thought it had, 45 per cent said it had not, and the remainder did not know, 63 per cent thought feminism “had helped women in the work force” (22 per cent thought it had not, 15 per cent did not know). 74 per cent believe that “the majority of Canadian women do not support the goals of the feminist movement” (7 per cent disagreed with the statement, 19 per cent did not know).
Views on other social issues were sough. 72 per cent think child abuse is a “very serious problem,” and 54 per cent see wife battering in the same way. Husband battering was considered a very serious problem by only 14 per cent (19 per cent thought it was somewhat serious, 37 per cent thought it not a serious problem and 30 per cent did not know).
The idea that divorce should be granted after a one-year separation was disapproved by 73 per cent, although 9 per cent approved and 18 per cent were undecided. 77 per cent think that in the event of divorce a woman should receive financial recognition for her contribution to family life (including non-family assets). 21 per cent answered that it “depends” – although what it depends on is not known, perhaps on the woman’s personal financial circumstances.
Views on day care and mothers working outside the home were also sought. There was unanimity that childcare paid for entirely through government sources was not wanted (zero per cent approved). 42 per cent thought that child care should be paid for entirely by parents, 52 per cent said it dependent on parents’ income, 6 per cent approved a contribution of taxes and parental income.
Approval for married women working full-time outside the home depended on ages of children, whether or not the children were handicapped, and whether there were elderly parents to care for. The responses indicated that it depends on financial need. Only 3 per cent approve mothers with pre-school children working full-time outside the home, although 35 per cent said it depended on financial need. 11 per cent approve mothers with school-age children working and a further 52 per cent approve it financial circumstances warranted it. For mothers of teens, approval goes up to 26 per and another 52 per cent depending on finances. The response for those with handicapped children needing care is 8 per cent approve of mothers working, 53 per cent disapprove and 39 per cent say that it depends on financial need. Wither elderly parents that need care, 17 per cent approve the married woman working, 27 per cent disapprove, and 56 per cent say finances are the decisive criterion.
These responses clearly illustrate a belief that children’s needs should have the highest priority when the family’s financial circumstances make it possible for the mother to remain in the home. The idea that mothers with young children should commit themselves the full-time work outside the house for reasons of ‘self-fulfillment”, is clearly rejected. Questions regarding part0time paid employment and community volunteer occupations were not asked and may well have elicited a greater percentage approval.
The attitudes toward women working should not be taken to mean that the respondents to this survey se children as solely “women’s work.’ An earlier question asked, “Do you think that husbands should take more responsibility in the care of their children than they generally have taken in the past?” 73 per cent replied yes, a further 25 per cent said it “depends.”
Pro-family supporters have a low opinion of the media. In a list of various institutions, respondents were asked to rate how much power each group was perceived to have. The media elicited an 81 per cent response for “too much power,” closely followed by labour unions and the large corporations (both 78 per cent). Those seem to have “too little power” included small business (65 per cent) and religious leaders (56 per cent).
How the media covers pro-life, pro-family issues also elicited a strong negative response. 70 per cent thought the coverage was “poor” in the local community press, rising 85 per cent who find coverage “poor” in the major daily newspapers, radio and television.
A personal profile of the respondents show that 73 per cent are married; 50 per cent are employed and 29 per cent are homemakers (the remainder are retired, unemployed, or students). 62 per cent are professionals and semi-professional. 42 per cent of the homemakers were professionals and semi-professionals when in the labour force. 19 per cent of the respondents own their own business, as do 17 per cent of the respondents have education beyond high school.
Religion is an important part of these pro-family supporters’ lives. 94 per cent say that it is very important,’ and 63 per cent stating they attend church service more than once a week. 33 per cent attendant church once a week. 65 per cent stated that religion was very important in their families as they were growing up. Denominationally, the survey respondents broke down into 78 per cent Roman Catholic, with the reminder spread between eleven protestant denominations.