Analysing Articles

Examining Opposing Viewpoints

Interpreting Folk Songs in History

Interpreting Cartoons

Responding Personally to Historical Information

Preparing to Conduct an Interview

Listening with Discrimination

Generalizing from Historical Data

Analysing Cause and Effect

Generalizing from
Historical Data

The results of the first and second referendums raise an intriguing question: Does religious affiliation help explain why people voted the way they did? One way to investigate this is to see if denominational data correlates well with referendum results. Remember that religion was only one of several factors that may have influenced voting decisions.

The first referendum, on June 3, 1948, concluded with responsible government in the lead, but without a clear majority. Commission of Government was the choice for 22, 311 voters (14.32%), confederation for 64, 066 voters (41.13%), and responsible government for 69, 400 voters (44.55%). The fight during the first referendum campaign was largely on economic and social issues. Confederates argued that confederation would bring improved housing, water and sewer, family allowances, better transportation, more markets for goods, reduced taxation, and increased employment. Of course, people who favored responsible government argued otherwise. As well, they reminded voters that if responsible government won, they then could choose independence, economic union with the United States, or even confederation with Canada.

Once it became obvious that a second referendum was necessary, a new campaign began. Since Commission of Government would not be a choice on the ballot, the confederate and responsible government groups vied for the votes of those who had voted for Commission of Government. Although economic arguments continued to be used, another issue crept in: religious affiliation. During the first referendum, Roman Catholic districts on the Avalon Peninsula solidly voted for responsible government. In some Protestant districts, concern was expressed, particularly by Orangemen, that Roman Catholics would unduly influence the results of the referendum. Some voters in these districts were concerned that Roman Catholics would largely vote in favor of responsible government. This sentiment, influenced by confederate whisper campaign, was a reaction to the stand of key leaders (e.g., Archbishop Roche) in the Roman Catholic Church.

In this exercise, you will test the following hypothesis:

"Most Roman Catholics voted in favour of responsible government."


  1. To test this hypothesis, you will need to complete the following chart. Refer to the Confederation Resource Room to collect the relevant data (see tables "Voting Percentages" and "Denominational Percentages") indicating the percentage share of the total population in each district which was Roman Catholic, and the percentage share of voters who voted for responsible government (R.G.).

    Religious Denomination and the Second Referendum
    District% R.C.Rank % Vote for R.G.Rankdd2
    White Bay            
    Green Bay            
    Grand Falls            
    Bonavista North            
    Bonavista South            
    Trinity North            
    Trinity South            
    Bay de Verde
    Harbour Grace            
    Port de Grave            
    Harbour Main-
    Bell Island
    St. John's W.            
    St. John's E.            
    St. Mary's
    Placentia W.            
    Fortune Bay-
    La Poile
    St. Georges-
    Port au Port
    St. Barbe            

  2. After you have filled in this data, complete the rankings. Select the district with the highest percentage of Catholics and give it a rank of 1; the district with the lowest percentage of Catholics will get a ranking of 25 (since there are 25 districts). Repeat this step for each district for the percentage of voters who voted for responsible government.
  3. Calculate the difference (d) between the two rankings; you will get positive and negative values.
  4. Calculate d2 to get all positive values. Add up all the d2 values; this total is represented by the symbol .
  5. You can now calculate a mathematical value, called the rank correlation coefficient, to show the strength of the relationship between the two sets of variables in the table you constructed. To do this use the formula

    where r represents the rank correlation coefficient, the sum of all the squared differences, and n the number of districts.

  6. What value did you get for r ? What can you say about the hypothesis above?

    To help you interpret what this value means, refer to the following scenarios:

    If you got a value equal or close to +1, it means that the vast majority of Roman Catholics voted for responsible government.

    If you got a value equal or close to -1, it means that the vast majority of Roman Catholics did not vote for responsible government (in other words, they voted for confederation).

    If you got a value of 0, it means that one cannot conclude that there is a relationship between the percentage share of Roman Catholics making up the population and the results of the referendum. In other words, a value of 0 means that the percentage of Roman Catholics who voted for responsible government is about the same as the percentage of Roman Catholics who voted for confederation.

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