Your MP may be popular, but are they too rude?

New research ranks MPs from the 40th Parliament based on their civility in question period

FREDERICTON, NB, May 31 /CNW/ - What are you looking for in an MP? Are you into the quiet polite type or a bulldog who will grill the government on their record? New research that will be released tomorrow at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Fredericton, New Brunswick provides concrete information to our national debate on civility on Parliament Hill.

Researchers Alex Sévigny and Philip Savage of McMaster University, and Andrew Laing of Cormex Research, have a created a "civility index" for Question Period and ranked MPs from the 40th Parliament based on how rude or civil they behave while conducting the back and forth of Question Period.

The trio of communications researchers have found that contrary to moments of fist pounding and yelling, more than 75 per cent of the time an MP will receive applause in response to their comments, whereas they are booed only 6 per cent of the time. Further, compared to other classifications of demeanour-including angry, frustrated and arrogant-MPs are rated as calm almost 60 per cent of the time.

Rona Ambrose, MP for Edmonton Spruce Grove, led the house with a civility index of 68, while the average MP score was 54.

The study identifies the themes that dominate question period, with politics and elections and the constitution getting the largest share of time, beating out justice and even foreign affairs. Also, MPs are found to show some additional civility when engaged in certain types of conversations. When talking about Afghanistan or education, question period was conducted with more civility than when discussing scandals, the government's record or health issues.

Understanding how parliament works and how our MPs behave is critical to maintaining a well-functioning democracy. With parliamentarians heading back to work this week-Savage, Sévigny and Laing's research offers a reminder what we see on television isn't the whole story.

These results are part of the Question Period Monitoring and Analysis Project, led by Alex Sévigny executive director of the COMM-lab Communications Metrics Lab at McMaster University.

Get more from the 2011 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Organized by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences brings together scholars, graduate students, practitioners, and policy-makers to share groundbreaking research and examine the most important social and cultural issues of the day. This year's Congress is co-hosted by the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University and runs from May 28 to June 4.

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SOURCE Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

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