What makes us Canadian? A study of values, beliefs, priorities and identity
A national polling partnership between the Angus Reid Institute and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
October 3, 2016 – Canadians are less inclined to encourage minorities to retain their culture, customs and language, and more inclined to choose economic growth over protecting the environment than they were a generation ago.
They are also clearly divided on issues of respect, fairness, national pride and hope for the future – although the Canadians feeling most aggrieved today aren’t necessarily the obvious choices they might have been in the past.
These are among the findings of a comprehensive new public opinion poll on the values, beliefs, priorities, and identity of Canadians – conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
This study examines the shared ideas and beliefs that make Canada what it is today, as well as the divisions that push back against long-held concepts of what Canada is, or is supposed to be.
- Massive generational differences affect Canadians’ sense of pride and attachment to their country: nearly three-quarters (73%) of those 65 years or older profess a “deep attachment” to Canada, this shrinks to less than half (45%) among those aged 18-24
- 45 years after multiculturalism became government policy, most Canadians (68%) would prefer to see minorities doing more to “fit in” to mainstream society. That said, the same number say they’re satisfied with the way newcomers are integrating into their own communities
- The majority of Quebecers say their province will ultimately stay in Canada, but other regional tensions remain – notably between Alberta and the rest of the country.
- PART 1: What Unites Us?
- State of the nation
- Pride and Attachment
- Quality of life
- Other Common Views
- PART 2: What Divides Us?
- Economic diversity drives varying opinions
- Best approach to the economy
- What kind of Canada?
- Where does religion fit in Canadian life?
- Canadians and their government
- PART 3: What’s driving our differences?
- Regional perspectives
- The generational divide
- Newcomers and Visible Minorities
- Political divides
- PART 4: Segmentation Analysis – Five Canadian Mindsets
- Permissive Reformers
- Public Sector Proponents
- Cautious Skeptics
- Faith-Based Traditionalists
- Free Enterprise Enthusiasts
- Which segment do you align with? Take our quiz here
While discussion, debate, and measurement of the Canadian psyche are nothing new, events at home and abroad over the last several years have renewed scrutiny on these conversations. The nature of Canada’s economic identity has been the subject of fierce argument over the past decade. So too have deliberations over the legal makeup of the Canadian family, and considerations regarding birth and death. Technology is changing our ideas and notions of national culture.
Meanwhile identity, the very question of what it means to be a Canadian, has been subject to tugs-of-war driven by the spectre of domestic and international terrorism, the ongoing international refugee crisis, changing national demographics due to immigration and, indeed, the politicization of these aforementioned factors.
Whether is was the furore over a proposed ban on niqabs in the public service during the last federal election, national angst over fast-tracking 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country by a new government, or the current debate over a so-called “Values Test” for new immigrants, these conversations are front and centre.
It is against this backdrop that the Angus Reid Institute and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, in a joint partnership, undertook a comprehensive examination of the principles and ideals that unite and divide people living in Canada today.
In some cases, the results may run counter to conventional wisdoms or long held beliefs. In others, they reinforce conclusions we reached long ago. In all cases, every attempt has been made to responsibly address both the benign and thorny issues that prick our national conscience.
Part 1 – What Unites Us?
State of the nation
For the majority of Canadians, the country is in relatively good shape. Two-in-three (64%) say they are satisfied with the way things are going today, a number that compares favourably to satisfaction with the state of the nation in many other countries, especially the United States, as seen in the following graph:
Indeed, among G8 countries, only Germany and Russia came close to Canada’s level of satisfaction in a spring 2014 survey conducted by Pew Research Center:
On this question, Canada has recently been an outlier among nations. According to Pew data from 2002, Canada was “the only country in the West where a majority (56%) of those surveyed” was satisfied with the way things were going at the time. Subsequent Pew surveys have found Canadians’ satisfaction ranging from a high of 60 per cent in May 2003 to a low of 45 per cent in Spring 2005 (Pew’s spring 2013 survey showed 55% of Canadians satisfied with the way things were going at the time).
Today, satisfaction with the way things are going in Canada is fairly consistent across demographic groups (see comprehensive tables for greater detail). It should be noted, however, that Canadians are much more likely to say they are “moderately satisfied” (55% do) than to say they are “very satisfied” (9%).
Attachment to Canada
Canadians are also united in their attachment to this country. Overall, 62 per cent of Canadians say they “have a deep emotional attachment to Canada,” though this significantly lower among residents of Quebec, as seen in the following graph:
Historical context reveals a distinct cooling of separatist fervour in Quebec and an increase in a more practical view of this province’s place and prospects in a country it once came within a hair’s breadth of separating from. When Angus Reid asked Quebecers about their attachment to Canada in February of 1991, responses looked quite different:
This change in Quebec contributes to a national viewpoint that shows “deep attachment” is essentially unchanged over the quarter century, while attachment contingent upon a good standard of living increases by a significant margin.
As will be discussed later in this report, this change is also driven, in part, by a significant number of young people saying their attachment to Canada is conditional.
Beyond the rejection of a fractured Canada, Quebecers are also disinclined – at least for now – to revisit the separation question. Today, three-quarters of those living in Quebec (75%) agree the province should “stay in Canada,” and two-thirds (64%) say sovereignty – the question that has lived near the heart of Canadian national identity for generations – is settled.
In this sense, attachment to Canada unites Canadians, more than it has in a generation:
There are many constructs by which we tend to measure national pride: the national team’s performance at the Olympics or the success of individual Canadians on the world stage. And if the flag-waving or Canada boosting seems nearly unanimous in such situations – so too is opinion on a more direct question.
Overall, eight-in-ten Canadians (79%) say they are either “very proud” (52%) or “proud” to be Canadian, though this sentiment is lower in Quebec:
That said, Quebecers are simply more measured – or muted in their pride: more than twice as likely as those in other regions to say they are “somewhat proud” to be Canadian (25% do, compared to 11% in the rest of Canada). Fewer than one-in-ten (9%) in Quebec say they’re “not very” or “not at all” proud to be a Canadian, compared to five per cent nationally (see comprehensive tables).
However, if regional divides on national unity and pride are fading, they may well be replaced by generational ones. As will be discussed later – in Part 3 of this report – age is now more of a driver of division on national attachment and pride than region.
Canada compared to other countries:
When it comes to how the nation is doing overall relative to other developed nations, Canadians believe they are holding more than their own, by a margin of more than six-to-one:
And when it comes to Canada’s status on the world stage, people are equally gratified. Nearly eight-in-ten Canadians say the country’s international reputation is either “good” or “very good”.
What impact has a change in government had on this measure? The election of a majority Liberal government not only saw high-profile changes in rhetoric – think, “Canada is back” – but also equally lauded announcements on accepting 25,000 refugees from Syria, international peacekeeping, or a bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, among others.
It is for political watchers to debate and verify whether a change in tone and amplification in volume amounts to actual change in policy or approach. But at the very minimum, a different style on the communications front may point to a new spring in Canadians’ steps on this question.
Consider that one year ago, the prevailing national view by a margin of two-to-one was that the country’s international reputation had declined by the end of the Conservative Party’s ten-year administration:
Further, findings from that same September 2015 Angus Reid Institute poll showed palpable anxiety about Canada’s perceived ebbing of diplomatic influence: nearly half (46%) of respondents felt at the time that the country was “falling behind” on this issue.
Quality of life
As previously mentioned, Canadians differ from other countries – especially the U.S. in their satisfaction with the overall direction of their country. But when it comes to quality of life, residents of both countries do profess satisfaction:
This rosy outlook correlates to the findings of another Angus Reid Institute survey on personal satisfaction released in February. In that poll, eight-in-ten (80%) said they were satisfied with their “overall quality of life.”
Canadians and Americans are both also optimistic about their personal futures. When it comes to the prospects of the next generation however, opinions are considerably more bleak:
Other Shared Canadian Views
Canadians also share broad perspectives with one another on society, the economy, and their own personal lives.
When it comes to identity, nearly nine-in-ten Canadians (89%) agree with the statement “I feel as Canadian as anybody else,” and not quite eight-in-ten (78%) agree that “if you work hard, it is possible to be very successful in Canada no matter what your background.”
At the same time, however, significant majorities of Canadians are also united in feelings of disenfranchisement in Canada today.
Two-thirds (66%) say it seems like the values they care about are losing ground, and almost as many (62%) say “it’s impossible for people like me to have any real influence on the political decisions that affect me:”
Large numbers of Canadians are also in agreement on various questions aimed at getting to the bottom of Canadians’ ultimate opinions and preferences on key issues facing the country today. The questions are framed as “face-offs” in which respondents chose views closest to their own opinions, even if they did not totally agree with the statement.
Posing questions in this way allowed researchers to get a sense of where Canadians land when forced to pick a side on these issues. Though this may preclude more nuanced views of the topics in question, it also provides a strong underlying current of public opinion.
On two important social issues dominating the public agenda today, Canadians find broad commonality in their opinions:
There is also consensus on underlying Canadian opinions regarding key economic concerns:
This is not to say questions surrounding the oil industry don’t also evoke deep divisions in this country, as will be discussed later in this report.
Views on the North American Free Trade Agreement are more complicated than they may appear from this face-off question. A recent Angus Reid Institute poll that asked a more nuanced question found fewer than one-in-ten Canadians (9%) saying the trade deal should be “done away with entirely,” but a similarly low number (11%) saying it should be “left as is”. The largest segments of respondents wanted some kind of change:
That said, it would be something of an understatement to say general views on NAFTA have changed significantly over the last quarter-century.
Consider that in March 1992, Angus Reid found two-thirds of Canadians opposed to the deal (64%), while one-third gave the trade pact their support. Likewise, just one-quarter thought it would improve the Canadian economy over the long-term.
Multiculturalism, Accommodation and Immigration:
Canada was the first country in the world to adopt an official multiculturalism policy in 1971, and since then, it is often lauded as one of the things that makes Canada, Canada.
That said, both historical and current national views offer considerable friction on this issue.
On one hand, two-thirds of Canadians (67%) say they’re “satisfied” with how well new immigrants are integrating into their communities, and nearly three-quarters (73%) disagree with the statement “I would feel uncomfortable if my son or daughter were planning to marry someone from a different cultural or religious background.”
On the other hand, more than two-thirds of Canadians say minorities should do more to fit in with mainstream society rather than keep their own customs and languages.
Forty-five years after the implementation of official multiculturalism, data reveals no softening of Canadian public opinion on this key issue. Indeed, it would appear the passage of time has instead hardened or entrenched the above majority view. 23 years ago, the April 1993 Reid Report found more than half – 57 per cent – thought minority groups should be encouraged to “try to change to be more like most Canadians”:
And despite a popular narrative about Canada as a “cultural mosaic,” Canadians are more likely to say minorities should assimilate than residents of the American “melting pot,” as seen in the following graph:
As the Angus Reid Institute found in its recent profile of the American voter, the divide on this question in the U.S. is driven largely by a gulf between Hillary Clinton supporters (most of whom choose “encourage cultural diversity”) and Donald Trump supporters (who overwhelmingly choose “do more to fit in”). On this question, even Canadians who voted for left-of-centre parties in 2015 are more in line with Trumpists than Clintonites:
And while Canadians may take pride in more engagement in crisis issues affecting people around the world, when it comes to immigration, they take a practical view, overwhelmingly titling towards policy based that puts Canada’s economic needs before humanitarian considerations:
Notably, this view tracks with polling from the Angus Reid Institute earlier this year on the issue of Syrian refugees indicating considerable angst. In February, nearly half – 44 per cent – said they opposed the plan to accept 25,000 refugees, while fewer than one-third – just 29 per cent – favoured accepting any more once the full contingent had arrived.
Part 2 – What Divides Us?
In a country largely defined by its sprawling landscapes and regional uniqueness, it should come as no surprise that Canadians report significant divides on important political, economic and societal issues. In Canada it could be said, despite the paradox, that heterogeneity is one of the elements that defines our union.
Economic diversity drives varying opinions
One of the core sticking points between provinces in the nation’s history has been how much each province contributes to the confederation, and how much it shares in the national economic spoils. Look no further than the history of equalization payments – formally introduced in 1957 but a part of Canada’s blueprint for much longer. Of course, have and have-not provinces find themselves in those positions based largely on the health of their job markets.
Canadians, when asked about their satisfaction with job opportunities in their communities – are evenly divided at the national level:
The regional perspective helps to illuminate this split. Atlantic Canadians and Albertans, the two areas hit hardest by the oil slump, report the lowest levels of satisfaction (36% and 41% respectively). Perhaps predictably, these regions lead Canada in an unfortunate statistical area – they have the highest unemployment levels.
On the other side of the spectrum, six-in-ten (59%) Manitobans and Quebecers say they are satisfied with the job opportunities in their communities.
Canadians are slightly more enthusiastic when asked about their personal financial situations. Here, six-in-ten (60%) say they are satisfied, while the rest (40%) remain unsatisfied. Each province reports at least 56 per cent satisfaction, but the positive sentiment is largely driven by older Canadians:
The Economy and Government Intervention
Canadians are also divided on government involvement in the economy. Though this nation has long embraced the free market, it has also been lauded for avoiding much of the 2008 financial crisis due to banking regulations, and operates with a system of quotas and tariffs to strengthen vulnerable industries, particularly farming and agriculture.
Canadian opinion mirrors this mixed relationship with the open marketplace. Asked to choose between two options, one half (52%) of Canadians say it would be better to leave the economy more to the free market, while the other half say more government involvement and regulation of the economy would be the better way to proceed.
Economic Growth or the Environment?
Canada’s energy exporting powerhouse, Alberta, has long been a source of economic growth for the nation but also a significant a cause of controversy, as environmentalists weigh the risks and rewards of oil sands development. As canvassed earlier in the report, Canadians are largely supportive of the oil industry across the country and consider it an asset due to its contribution to GDP, but a significant number of Quebec (45%) and B.C. (37%) residents view the sector as a liability because of the environmental risk.
Quebec’s higher level of concern over the environmental risk of the oil patch matches a pattern that will be discussed later in this report. In many ways, Quebecers – especially those in Montreal – have assumed the mantle of environmental protectionism many most commonly associate with British Columbians, as is evidenced by – among other things – a hardline stance against the proposed Energy East pipeline project.
On another key issue of Canada’s economy, Canadians are again in two camps. Almost six-in-ten (57%) say that Canada should emphasize environmental protection over economic growth, while the other 43 per cent say that economic growth should be the key focus of Canada’s policies.
On this key question – Canadians have undergone a seismic shift in their opinion over the last decade. In March 2006, an Ipsos-Reid survey of 1,100 Canadians found close to nine-in-ten felt government should place greater importance on environmental protection, even if it meant extracting fewer resources:
If anything, this contrast highlights what was then a relatively uniform view the country. Particularly notable: Alberta – where although strong support for such a statement was weakest, overall, more than 80 per cent did agree.
What kind of Canada?
Canadians have divergent ideas about the way their country should operate on a variety of topics, from approaches to existing programs such as social assistance, to the need for new programs such as national childcare.
These divisions are highlighted in the graphs that follow, beginning with the face-off on childcare (again, these questions are not presented in any particular order):
Interestingly, the differences on this question between households that include children and those that do not are minimal. Responses to this question are much more driven by gender, age, and regional differences than by whether or not one has kids at home (see summary and comprehensive tables).
Canadians are also split on questions about government aid for the poor and on mandating representation for women on corporate boards:
On Canada’s justice system, respondents are divided over what the goal should be. This division may correlate with Canadians’ growing, but not overwhelming, confidence in the justice system, as seen in recent ARI polling.
The sense that stronger sentences are needed has been a part of the crime debate in this country since the 1990s, when crime rates last peaked. In a 1994 Angus Reid poll, for example, one-in-five Canadians who thought crime was on the rise in their communities (19%) said – unprompted – that justice system leniency was part of the problem.
On health care, Canadians tilt slightly toward encouraging private medical clinics outside the public health care system, a finding that may reflect the 35 per cent of Canadians who told ARI last year that their access to primary care is either “difficult” or non-existent.
This division is a significant departure from 1991, when 81 per cent of Canadians said in an Angus Reid poll that they opposed the privatization of Canada’s hospitals.
There are issues that have been with this country since its birth in 1867 on which Canadians have yet to find agreement. Regarding Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous peoples, which has included a formal apology from the federal government for forced assimilation through the Indian Residential Schools system, Canadians remain divided about the overall direction of policies toward First Nations.
Though past Angus Reid Institute polling has found Canadians strongly supportive of many recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and of the federal government’s planned inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, views are more split on this overall face-off question. Six-in-ten (59%) say Canada should expand policies to improve the situation for Indigenous groups, while four-in-ten (41%) say the government should work to remove special status programs.
These views on the general tone of Canada’s relationship to its Aboriginal people are broadly consistent with what Canadians said in 1991 when asked whether Indigenous leaders should be “full participants” in meetings involving the prime minister and premiers. Most (54%) said they should be, while the rest were split between saying they should be given only observer status (22%) or saying they shouldn’t receive any “special privileges at constitutional conferences:”
On Canada’s continued relationship with the British monarchy, Canadians are evenly divided. Half would like to see the British monarch remain as Canada’s official head of state, while the resultant half prefer to see this tradition end.
Views on the monarchy tend to relate closely to perceptions of the individual members of the royal family in the news of the day, which is why it’s important to ask questions about Canada’s connection to monarchy over an extended period of time (“generations to come”).
When a 1993 Angus Reid poll asked Canadians whether their country should “preserve its formal constitutional connection with the monarchy” or “move to abolish” it, roughly half (51%) chose the latter option, suggesting that views on whether Canada should remain a monarchy over the long term have remained relatively stable over the last few decades.
Where does religion fit in Canadian life?
Most Canadians have some sort of connection with religion through prayer, as seen in a 2016 Angus Reid Institute poll. That said, only about one-in-three Canadians (36%) say religion is “very important” in their day-to-day lives:
Where religion becomes a source of division is its role in public life – here Canadians are decidedly less supportive of religious expression. Six-in-ten (58%) say that religion should be kept out of public life completely.
Both findings correlate with what we know to be declining rates of religious adherence in Canada. As our 2015 Angus Reid Institute poll on faith notes, the number of people living in this country who told census takers in 1971 they had “no religion” was about four per cent. Today, it’s more like 25 per cent – a six-fold increase.
That said, immigrants to Canada are driving something of a renaissance on this front. The same 2015 poll also noted people born outside the country were considerably more likely to attend religious services on a regular basis than those born here, while religions practiced in parts of the world consistent with Canadian immigration patterns showed congregations that were far younger than the average.
As will be demonstrated in Part 3 of this report – this religious resurgence in communities comprised of immigrants and visible minorities is having an impact on social conservatism in Canada.
Canadians and their government
Canadians have seemingly disparate views of government. While there are aspects wherein government involvement is appreciated (pride in healthcare would be one of these), there are split views on many subjects, including an overall view of government and whether or not it can be trusted. Only half (53%) of Canadians actually say that they generally trust the government to act with citizen’s best interests in mind:
This skepticism extends government’s security policy. Canadians are evenly divided over whether or not the government should be able to infringe on some civil liberties in order to preserve safety and security, while a similar number also say that the picture painted by politicians and media about the threat of homegrown terrorism is overblown.
Asked about their trust in another important institution – the news media – Canadians are similarly divided:
To some degree, this lack of trust in the media may be a recent development. In 1994, most Canadians reported having either a “great deal” (15%) or a “fair amount” (58%) of respect for journalists and their chosen profession.
As will be discussed in part three of this report, generational divisions are a key driver of the split on this question.
Part 3 – What’s driving our differences?
By now we have a sense of the issues, ideas and beliefs that unite Canadians in their opinions, and those that divide them. But what and who are the drivers of these divisions? And what about their lives, and what they think creates such fault lines?
To start, our differences are largely driven by where in Canada we live.
As previously mentioned, Quebec sovereignty has faded significantly as a concern since the 1990s. That said, new regional grievances are emerging.
Asked to agree or disagree with the statement “my province is treated fairly by the national government,” three-quarters of Ontario residents (75%) agree, compared to just two-in-five in Alberta and Saskatchewan:
Residents of those two Prairie provinces are also, not coincidentally, most likely to agree with the statement “my province contributes more to the country than it gets back in return.”
This is the majority view in most regions of the country, though Manitobans and residents of Atlantic Canada take a humbler perspective:
Asked whether their province is respected by the rest of the country, Canadians in most regions are more circumspect.
The regions least likely to feel respected on the national stage are Quebec, Atlantic Canada and Alberta, though it’s quite possible they feel this way for different reasons: Quebec as a result of its cultural differences with English Canada, Atlantic Canada because of its relative size and remoteness, Alberta, over frustrations surrounding economics and energy policy.
British Columbians are a significant outlier on this question, with more than three-quarters (77%) believing their province is respected by the rest of the country:
The provinces also differ in their outlooks on the future – especially of their own jurisdictions – as seen in the table that follows:
What follows is a discussion of the regional stories underlying these overall findings, from west to east, beginning with British Columbia.
British Columbians are among the Canadians most likely to say they’re satisfied with the way things are going in the country today (68% do), and to say they’re optimistic about the future of their province (62% do). Nearly eight-in-ten (79%) are optimistic about their own futures, the highest total seen in any province.
If there’s one thing getting British Columbians down, it’s housing – especially in Metro Vancouver. Fully eight-in-ten residents (80%) of the country’s most-expensive real estate market say owning a home is either very or fairly important to them, and yet, among those in the region who don’t currently own their homes, two-thirds (64%) say it’s “not very” or “not at all” likely that they will own one in the future.
As previous Angus Reid Institute polling has found, many of those feeling shut out of the Vancouver housing market are young and university educated.
Politically, B.C. residents, whether in Metro Vancouver or elsewhere in the province, tilt leftward in their views on various values and policy trade-offs.
In 2016, Alberta is especially depressed, anxious, and aggrieved. Most (59%) are dissatisfied with the job opportunities in their community, and nearly half (47%) are dissatisfied with the direction of the country as a whole – more than any other province.
Albertans are also pessimistic about the future of their province, the future of Canada, and the future of the next generation, though they remain upbeat about their own personal prospects – a possible holdover from the boom years.
There are also indications of Alberta’s recent prosperity in this data. Albertans are as likely as other Canadians to be satisfied with their personal financial situations, and they are above the national average in terms of their satisfaction with healthcare and education.
Residents of Alberta’s two major cities display generally similar views and attitudes. One important difference is that Calgarians tend to have a gloomier outlook than Edmontonians, although they are less depressed than rural Albertans.
Residents of the two cities agree their province is not fully respected by the rest of the country – a view held even more widely elsewhere in Alberta.
On politics, Alberta remains the bedrock of small-c conservatism, favouring smaller government and more emphasis on individual rights and responsibilities when responding to the policy face-off questions.
Sad, but hopeful Saskatchewan
Like its western neighbour, Saskatchewan has an economy based largely on the extraction of oil and other natural resources. And like Albertans, Saskatchewan residents have a gloomier-than-average outlook on the future of the country and of the next generation, as well as below average satisfaction with job opportunities. They also share a more conservative political outlook.
That said, Saskatchewan distinguishes itself from Alberta with a strongly optimistic perspective on its provincial future.
Crime jumps out as a significant area of concern in Saskatchewan. Fewer than two-in-five (39%) are satisfied with crime levels in their community, compared to two-thirds (66%) nationally.
Morning in Manitoba
Fresh off a provincial election that saw the end of a deeply unpopular government and the election of a popular new premier, Manitoba has a sunnier outlook than much of the country – especially its Prairie neighbours Saskatchewan and Alberta.
As in Saskatchewan, three-in-five Manitobans (62%) are optimistic about the future of their province, but unlike those to their west, Manitobans are also strongly optimistic about the future of Canada (73%). Manitoba’s sunny disposition even extends to the future of the next generation. The province is the only one where a majority (56%) say they are optimistic about this.
The story in Winnipeg is much the same as the story in Manitoba as a whole, with residents generally contented, and responses to many policy face-offs reflecting the national average.
One area of frustration for Manitobans both inside and outside Winnipeg, however, is the amount of crime in their communities. While a narrow majority (52%) say they are satisfied with crime levels where they live, almost half (48%) are dissatisfied – the highest total outside of Saskatchewan.
(Not so) Optimistic Ontario
Ontario residents find themselves very much in the “centre” of the country, not only geographically and culturally, but politically. Most Ontarians are satisfied with the way things are going in the country today and optimistic about the nation’s future and their own. Fewer than half are optimistic about the future of their province or the next generation, however.
Notably, Toronto differs from the rest of Ontario on a number of key measures. Residents of the nation’s largest city are significantly more optimistic about the future of Ontario (54% are, compared to 40% outside the GTA), and somewhat more optimistic about the future of the nation and of the next generation.
Politically, Torontonians tend to lean left compared to the rest of the province on most issues, voicing particularly strong support for increased federal involvement in healthcare and education.
Quite contented in Quebec
Quebecers are satisfied with most of the measures canvassed in this survey. Notably, fully two-thirds (67%) voice satisfaction with their personal financial situation – higher than in any other province. Respondents in Quebec are also fairly bullish about their personal futures, and about the prospects for Canada, Quebec, and the next generation.
Quebecers are relatively more socially liberal and secular, and display fairly mixed or centrist views on the range of policy and values trade-offs assessed in this study.
They’re also more likely than other Canadians to admit to feeling not much in common with Canadians in other parts of the country (44% agree with a statement to this effect, compared to 31% nationally).
Quebec also distinguishes itself by taking the hardest anti-oil/pipelines position of any region in the nation – almost half (45%) see oil resources in Alberta and elsewhere as a “liability.”
Residents of Quebec’s largest city tend to have views similar to the rest of Quebec in terms of their satisfaction with life and optimism for the future, as well as on most of the policy face-offs. But Montrealers are more likely than Quebecers as a whole to say they are “very proud” to be Canadian (40% do, compared to 24% in the rest of Quebec) and to say they have a “deep emotional attachment to Canada (42% versus 32%).
Angst rules Atlantic Canada
Economic anxiety is key to the narrative in Atlantic Canada today. Atlantic Canadians are very dissatisfied with job opportunities in their communities (36% satisfied, lower than Alberta and Saskatchewan) and tied with other regions for lowest satisfaction with their own personal financial situations (56%).
They are also the most pessimistic among provinces about the future prospects for their respective provinces, and indeed about their own futures (though two-thirds still profess optimism on this front).
Despite their more muted outlook on their provincial and individual futures, Atlantic Canadians are among the most bullish about the future of Canada as a whole. This may reflect a sense of satisfaction with the current political climate in Ottawa, more than any economic factors. The governing federal Liberal party won every Atlantic riding in the 2015 election, and the region tends to offer centre-left responses to questions about policies and social issues in this survey.
The generational divide
Looking at Canada by age, some clear differences in perspective are noted. It appears that older residents, having grown up in a pre-Internet world in which global connections were fewer and harder to maintain, may feel more rooted in their own country than younger ones.
Asked how proud they are to be Canadian, two-thirds (65%) of the 65+ age group say they are very proud, while another one-in-five say they’re proud. The number of people who take this top option diminishes with each decade of age, as shown in the graph that follows.
A similar story follows when Canadians are asked about their attachment to this land. While older Canadians say they’re deeply attached to Canada and what is stands for, younger generations are more likely to say that, though they feel an attachment, this relationship is circumstantial and relies upon a solid quality of life being provided by the nation. The youngest group of respondents, age 18 to 24, are actually more likely to choose this option (49%) than to say they love Canada and what it stands for (45%). That’s more than twice the number of older Canadians who say the same.
Some of what may be called more traditional social views are evident when looking at the makeup of society. For example, older generations are significantly more likely to say that minorities should make an effort to fit into Canadian society, rather than have society encourage cultural diversity. Millennials are not only less likely to say this, a majority (53%) swing the other way:
And though a majority of all age groups say that Canada should work towards greater inclusion when it comes to the LGBTQ community, this sentiment is particularly strong among younger Canadians.
As previously mentioned, younger Canadians also differ from older generations in their views on the news media. They’re considerably more likely to say “most of the stories you see in the news can’t be trusted,” as seen in the following graph:
In a number of other policy areas, the generational story is varied but less stark.
On national security and the use of force, older Canadians are more willing to approve of both active military operations, and the fight against terrorism as a rationalization for the curtailing of civil liberties. In both cases, middle-aged respondents are split, while younger Canadians are more likely to oppose both:
That said, it remains unclear whether these generational divides foretell vast changes in the Canadian viewpoint on these issues as millennials come of age, or whether, as with generations before them, they will become more conservative and traditional with age and time. Nor is it entirely clear what the outcome of these stark generational differences will be on the policy and political landscapes of the country. While younger Canadians flexed their political might in the last federal election, this bucked a long-noted trend in declining political engagement among that demographic. Is this the beginning of a new trend? Or a blip? Time will tell.
Newcomers to Canada
As Canadians grapple with their own preferences and views on questions of immigration, integration and identity – this survey seeks perspectives from those arguably most affected by these issues: newcomers, and visible minorities.
There is overlap among both groups – newcomers are defined in this report as people who have been living in this country ten years or fewer. While this is a relatively small respondent base, it is one whose views are striking in their similarities and differences to that of the general population.
On several fronts, recent immigrants’ views are generally in lockstep – and in some cases “more Canadian” than that of Canadians. This holds particularly true when it comes to what this country offers them in terms of quality of life, and how well they themselves are integrating into their communities:
However, it is on the question of prospects for the next generation where their optimism is most pronounced.
While remarkable, this finding may not be entirely surprising. Among those who have come to Canada for either better life or economic opportunities, expectations and buoyancy are high. Indeed, newcomers are significantly more opportunity minded – fully half – 50 per cent say so, compared to 30% of the total population. And they are driven: three-quarters say buying property is a crucial piece of achieving a Canadian identity:
Other cleavages between newcomers and the total population are found on questions that define our social values. While some of the differences are slight, they illustrate a trend that shows recent immigrants tilting towards more traditional, or conservative views on these issues:
The most significant difference between newcomers and everyone else? They are nearly twice as likely as all respondents to say minorities should retain their customs, languages and culture in Canada rather than “do more to fit in”. This, however, is a viewpoint that ebbs significantly with time – as immigrants who have been in the country longer than 20 years have a dramatically different view.
In terms of the national experience, and their own views, members of visible minorities straddle two worlds. On one hand, their ethnic heritage means others may make assumptions about their “Canadian-ness” – regardless of how many generations back their experience and citizenship in this country may stretch. On the other hand, immigration policies and trends of the recent past make it more likely that many visible minorities were either born outside of Canada – or that their parents or grandparents were.
Identity issues loom large for this demographic, but in general terms, their perspectives are positive. To begin, they are as likely to say they carry a “deep emotional attachment to Canada” as all respondents:
They are also as overwhelmingly likely to say they feel as Canadian as anybody else in this country. The vast majority do so. Further, the majority – although notably fewer than the general population – also say they are seen as Canadians by others.
On some social and moral issues on which newcomers disagree with the general population, among visible minorities, views are mixed and less clear cut:
Another important fault line in Canada today is political ideology itself – the different and often opposing views the population has regarding how best to solve problems and build the country’s future.
This study asked Canadians their views on several different values and policy trade-offs – 18 in total – which have been discussed individually earlier in this report. By indexing responses to these questions according to their left and right options, ARI researchers were able to draw the following ideological spectrum, locating Canadians based on how many left and right options they choose:
For greater detail on the political ideology index used to determine these five groups, see the note on methodology at the end of this report.
Looking at these ideological segments as distinct groups allows a view of who sits where on this ideological spectrum:
The orientation of the ideological groups also shows how the left/right paradigm interlocks with other key issues explored in this research. Some can be seen in the following table:
Part 4 – Segmentation analysis
In order to fully analyze the data, Angus Reid Institute researchers conducted a segmentation or “cluster” analysis. This multi-variable analytical technique groups respondents into like-minded segments based on shared attitudes and beliefs.
The segments uncovered in this survey about views of values in Canada are seen in the infographic that follows (see the full-size version here).
This group comprises 14 per cent of the Canadian population. Their population distribution is close to average, though they skew slightly younger – one-third (33%) are in the 18 to 34 age group. They’re the least likely to say they’re religious (49%).
Members of this group are most likely to be based in urban centres, four-in-ten can be found in either Vancouver, Montreal, or Toronto. They’re significantly more likely to hold a university education than the other segments – more than one-in-three (37%) do, 10 per cent higher than the next closest group.
This group values aid for marginalized populations very highly. Nine-in-ten (89%) say that we should be working toward greater acceptance of the LGBTQ community, instead of focusing more on traditional family structures. They are almost twice as likely as the next closest segment (61% to 34%) to say that Canada should be focused on encouraging cultural diversity instead of integrating minority groups into mainstream Canadian society. They are also nearly unanimous in saying there should be more public support for disadvantaged people (91%) and that Canada should expand policies aimed at improving the situation of Indigenous Canadians (90%).
Public Sector Proponents
Demographically, this is the group with the greatest concentration of women (60%). And though they are not as left-leaning as the Permissive Reformers, many of them still find themselves on the left side of the political spectrum, and four-in-five (80%) are either centre or left overall.
As their name suggests, this segment is very supportive of government programs and voices a significant amount of trust in both the government and the media. In fact, four-in-five (80%) say that the media do a good job of presenting the facts. For comparison, the Canadian average for this sentiment is just 48 per cent. Three-quarters (74%) of members in this group say additionally that the government can be trusted to act with their best interests in mind.
This group is pro-affirmative action, in the form of forcing large public companies to hire women equally – 78 per cent say this is a reasonable course of action. They also support more government regulation in the economy at the highest levels of any group (72%), as opposed to leaving it in the hands of the free market.
This is the largest segment of the population (25%), and its members are most likely to fall in the 35 to 54 age group (39% do). This group is made up of close to equally men (48%) and women (52%).
This group lands close to the Canadian average in responses to a number of questions. However, they are also characterized for their increased levels of skepticism when looking at society. Fully three-quarters (75%) say that they do not trust most of the stories coming out of the media. Additionally, six-in-ten (58%) say they do not trust the government to act in their best interest. On the specific question of homegrown terrorism, just over half (52%) say that politicians and the media have overblown the actual threat this poses.
Interestingly, when asked about how wealthy people have accumulated their riches, this group is substantially more likely than any group (85% to 57% average) to say that they did so through personal connections or luck rather than hard work.
While most Canadians (59%) lean toward expanding programs aimed to improve the conditions for Canada’s First Nations, this group takes a split view. Here, half (49%) say that these programs and special status should be removed.
Faith Based Traditionalists
This segment is made up primarily of centre-right Canadians. One-in-four (24%) are rural-based, the highest number of any group, while they’re split close to evenly by both gender (49% male, 51% female) and age (36% 18 to 34, 32% 35 to 54, 32% over 55).
Notably, members of this segment are most likely to be either a first generation immigrant (both parents born outside Canada), or to have immigrated themselves (26%). They are by far the most religious cohort. One-in-three (33%) Faith Based Traditionalists report going to church at least once a week or more, compared to the Canadian average of just one-in-ten (11%). For this reason, members are much more likely than others, in fact, almost twice as likely as the next closest group (46%) to say that we should publicly celebrate the role of faith in Canadian lives (83%), instead of removing it from public spaces.
Predictably, this group takes a more traditional view of social issues. On the question of doctor-assisted dying, while eight-in-ten members from each other segment say this practice should be more easily accessible, this group goes the other direction – three-quarters (75%) say there should be greater safeguards and less accessibility.
Free Enterprise Enthusiasts
This is overwhelmingly the most male segment (65%) and it skews older (48% are 55+). In fact, more than half of this group is made up of men over the age of 35 (54%). They are the wealthiest among each of the segments, with one-quarter (25%) reporting a household income of $100,00 or more, and they seek to protect many free-market principles. This segment features the greatest number of Albertans.
When asked if the government should be more involved in regulating the economy, or if it should be left to the marketplace, more than four-in-five (83%) say hands off the free-market. In the same vein, they’re opposed to regulations that would create gender parity in large public companies, and say these firms should have hiring decisions left to their own judgement (86% say this).
They’re also significantly more likely than other groups to say that the government should remove special status for Indigenous peoples (68%), that the social safety net should be cut back and more emphasis put on a system that rewards hard work (76%) and that private medical clinics should be encouraged to give Canadians options outside of public healthcare (80%).
The segments are summarized in terms of how they relate to the political ideology spectrum in the following table:
Note on methodology:
To create the political ideology spectrum, Angus Reid Institute researchers designated the opposing choices in 18 face-off questions as representing “left” or “right” leaning positions. Questions without a clear left or right option were not included in the index.
Answers categorized as “left” were given the value “-1,” and answers categorized as “right” were given the value “1.” Respondents were then assigned a score based on their total number of left and right answers. A respondent who chose all “left” answers, for example, would score a -18. Because all of the questions are paired options, all total scores end up as even numbers. For example, if a respondent chose left answers on all but one question, the score would be -16 (-17 left +1 right = -16).
Scores between -18 and -10 constitute the “very left” segment, while scores between 18 and 10 constitute the “very right.” The “moderately left” scored between -8 and -4, and the moderately right scored between 4 and 8. “Centrists” scored between -2 and 2.
The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research organization established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.
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