cal world, participating in provincial politics simply as a consequence of their federal involvement.
|Level of politics most important|
If this analysis demonstrates that party activists in BC live in a coherent and well-integrated political world, we know the same is not true for the electorate. And this phenomenon of one political world for the activists, two for the voters, is the source of considerable misunderstanding even within the parties. Two-thirds of the New Democratic activists, when asked about the quarter of their provincial electorate that does not support them federally, say that those provincial supporters vote Liberal in federal elections. On the other hand, when we asked the Liberals who all the federal Liberal voters support in provincial elections, half believe that they go straight to Social Credit, most of the rest suggest that the federal vote splits in various other ways (but basically favouring Social Credit), and only 2 per cent think they vote NDP. Obviously one, or perhaps both, of these groups of provincial activists must be wrong. While survey data might tell us which, the important point here is that the provincial party activists do not have a clear, shared understanding of the political worlds of their voters. This incongruence between the political world of activist and voter cannot help the parties deal realistically with the competitive environment of BC politics.
This analysis of party activists has allowed us to escape for a moment the static portrait that survey evidence so often provides. Looking at the three parties over two decades largely confirms what we expected but in ways that allow us to highlight important dimensions of the development of the party system.