Canadians and Americans Perceive Bullying as a Criminal Act

Respondents in the two North American countries clearly support a law that would ban “cyber-bullying”.

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People in Canada and the United States are concerned about bullying in several facets of life, and are in favour of legislation that would bring an end to the practice of “cyber-bullying”, a new two-country Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

The online survey of 1,010 Canadian adults and 1,005 American adults also shows that a majority of respondents in both countries perceive bullying as a crime, even if no physical violence is involved.

The Problem

Nine-in-ten respondents in both North American countries (Can. 91%, U.S. 91%) believe bullying is a “very serious” or “moderately serious” problem in middle school and high school, and more than 70 per cent feel the same way about bullying in elementary school (Can. 80%, U.S. 73%).

While two-in-five Americans (43%) believe bullying is a “very serious” or “moderately serious” problem in college and university, only 28 per cent of Canadians feel that way.

When it comes to other situations that have nothing to do with schools, the proportion of respondents who are concerned about bullying is also high. At least two-in-five Canadians (44%) and Americans (46%) think bullying is a “very serious” or “moderately serious” problem in family life. Half of Canadians (51%) also believe bullying is a problem in the workplace, along with 46 per cent of Americans.

A Crime?

A majority of respondents in both Canada (62%) and the United States (52%) believe bullying should be considered a crime even if no physical violence is involved. A third of Americans (32%) and about one-in-five Canadians (18%) believe bullying should only be considered a crime if it entails physical violence. Only 11 per cent of Canadians and eight per cent of Americans believe bullying should not be considered a crime.


In the United States, a proposed federal law is seeking to ban “cyber-bullying”: the use electronic means to “coerce, intimidate, harass or cause other substantial emotional distress.” Four-in-five Americans (81%) support his legislation, and 86 per cent of Canadians would support a similar law being enacted in their own province.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

Methodology: From April 6 to April 9, 2010, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,010 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists, and 1,005 randomly selected American adults who are Springboard America panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20, in both countries. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult populations of Canada and the United States. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

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