As First Ministers ready for national summit, economy dwarfs all other issues on Canadians’ minds

Anxiety palpable ahead of March 22 budget


 February 23, 2016 – When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with provincial and indigenous leaders in Vancouver next week to discuss climate change, he does so not only riding high in public opinion when it comes to job performance – but also with the weight of Canadians’ economic anxiety on his shoulders.

The latest Angus Reid Institute (ARI) analysis of quarterly survey results from almost 6,000 adults corroborates what government, news media and individuals themselves have offered anecdotally: the economy is increasingly top of mind for Canadians and is now highlighted as a top priority more than two-to-one over any other national concern.

Key Findings:Angus Reid

  • Trudeau will arrive at the meeting with the approval of three-in-five Canadians (61%), a rating as high as or higher than any provincial premier today.
  • Nearly half of all Canadians (47%) say “economy” is the national matter preoccupying them most, while economy-related issues – such as unemployment (22%) and government spending (13%) – round out the top five
  • Albertans and Atlantic Canadians are among the most pessimistic when it comes to the prospects of their provincial economies, and their own financial situations at home

Economic anxiety getting worse:

As the federal government prepares to deliver its first budget on March 22, the Angus Reid Institute finds anxiety over economic issues higher than it has been in recent memory.

The percentage of Canadians choosing “economy” as one of the two most important issues facing the country has risen by 10 points since the previous edition of this quarterly survey in December, and is the highest it has been in the past year:

Angus Reid Institute

The increase from 37 to 47 per cent over the last three months is likely related to the unsettled conditions that have three-in-four Canadians saying they’re “worried” about the economy in 2016.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has argued that this widespread concern boosts the government’s case for running deficits – projected to be more than $18 million dollars in 2016-17 even before any new stimulus spending – to jumpstart the economy.

Recent ARI polling suggests that Canadians have only a limited amount of tolerance for deficit spending, however. Asked late last month, a plurality of Canadians (44%) said they wanted the Liberal government to stick to its campaign pledge to keep deficits at $10 billion or less. That’s twice as many as said government should spend whatever is necessary to stimulate the economy (22%).

Angus Reid Institute

Anxiety highest in Alberta, Atlantic:

This latest survey finds Albertans and Atlantic Canadians are most concerned about the economy at large – as well as their own personal economic prospects. Nationally, Canadians say their standard of living has worsened in the past year three-to-one over those who say it has improved. This represents the highest gap recorded nationally since 2010:

Angus Reid Institute

This rises to a margin of roughly four-to-one in Alberta and the Maritimes, as seen in the following graph:

Angus Reid Institute

And the percentage of Albertans reporting a deteriorating standard of living has increased dramatically over the last year:

Angus Reid Institute

As to those with the bleakest future outlooks? They live in New Brunswick and Newfoundland. And while a majority of Albertans (51%) say their province’s economy will worsen over the next year, Alberta is also tied with British Columbia and Saskatchewan for the largest proportion of respondents saying they think things will improve (27% in each province). The difference, of course, is that those two provinces are considerably less pessimistic than Alberta, as seen in the following graph:

Angus Reid Institute

Trudeau best on the economy:

As Canadians wrestle with anxiety about the direction of their personal, provincial, and national economies, about one-third (32%) say Justin Trudeau is the best party leader to deal with this issue. The rest are divided between his political opponents, or aren’t sure:

Angus Reid Institute

When thinking about overall performance, Canadians are considerably more positive on Trudeau. The Prime Minister’s approval rating is almost unchanged from early December, when the memory of his October election victory was still very fresh. People in this country approve of Trudeau by a margin of nearly two-to-one:

Angus Reid Institute

As the newest leader on the her party’s front bench in the House of Commons, interim Conservative Party of Canada leader Rona Ambrose is also understandably the least well known. Given that her stewardship of the party was dependent on not making a run for permanent leadership, this lack of familiarity may not prove to be much of a liability to the CPC’s long-term fortunes.

The political stakes are likely much higher for NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. Having led his party to a peak in popular support last June, Mulcair watched as, in the final stretch of the election campaign, his voters deserted the party for the Liberals and Trudeau. Although data from this survey shows he has the approval of 85 per cent of those who voted for him in October, it remains to be seen whether this will translate into sufficient support in the minds of actual NDP members and organizers come the party’s leadership review vote in April.

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.

Click here for the full report including tables and methodology

Click here for comprehensive data tables

MEDIA CONTACT:

Shachi Kurl, Executive Director: 604.908.1693 shachi.kurl@angusreid.org

Image Credit – Premier of Alberta

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