Millennial Connection: Young Canadians continue to sustain PM’s approval

By Dave Korzinski, Research Associate

Pundits and politicians have been saying it for well over a year now – “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Honeymoon is over”.

 

 

And while it may have appeared to have been the case at the beginning of 2017, as the months passed, a sustained downward trend in approval of the PM never developed. Instead, a double-digit drop in December has been followed by three straight quarters of stability. So, what happened to the forecasted frustration?

Millennials happened, that’s what. The Prime Minister’s bread and butter demographic, the 18 to 34 cohort accounting for about 8.4 million Canadians, continues to hold him in higher regard than the rest of Canadians, and are keeping his approval comfortably above the majority line as we inch toward the two-year mark of Trudeau’s government. On a number of key values and policy issues, the data shows that Trudeau is aligned closest with younger Canadians.

Sure, a drop in enthusiasm materialized on the West Coast after Trudeau announced federal approval of the TransMountain Pipeline twinning project in December. His approval sunk eight points overall and nine points among the 18 to 34 age group, only to stabilize through the spring:

By zeroing in on some of the more high-profile events and policy issues surrounding the Prime Minister, we may gain some insight into the connection between the PM and this group.

On the TransMountain Pipeline

What Trudeau Says:

“The Government of Canada has approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project…

…It will create 15,000 new, middle class jobs – the majority of them in the trades.”

Statement by the Prime Minister

 

What Millennials Say:

While the economic argument is important one for the government to make, it may not be as impactful with the younger generation. Four-in-ten Millennials say they consider the oil industry a liability rather than an asset, and close to two-thirds (64%) say that, when considering energy policy, environmental protection should be the priority over economic growth – much higher than other age groups.

This helps to explain the reaction to the TransMountain announcement, and the following dip in support from the PM.

But in the period between December 2016 and March 2017 we also learned Trudeau was under investigation for potential ethics violations after he vacationed on an island owned by spiritual leader and family friend the Aga Khan and used the leaders private helicopter as part of the visit.

Further, the Liberal government abandoned its pledge to reform the federal electoral system. Trudeau had stated many times that the 2015 election would be the last under first-past-the-post.

While Trudeau’s approval rating fell to 51 per cent among Canadians ages 55 and older in the reporting period following these controversies, and remained at that level for those 35 – 54, it actually rose slightly among Millennials to 62 per cent. Perhaps it was that six-in-ten (59%) in this age group said the electoral reform was not a high priority when the Angus Reid Institute asked.

Another possible explanation however, is to consider the issue that sucked up a lot of air that quarter in both traditional and social media.

 

On Refugees and Cultural Diversity

What Trudeau Says:

While there were certainly contentious issues to deal with during the winter of 2017, as outlined, the most high-profile event of the quarter was the travel ban announced by the Trump administration. In response to this, the Prime Minister tweeted a message that he had been saying domestically since 2015:

What Millennials Say:

Compared to their older counterparts, young Canadians are more supportive of this pro-refugee message. In fact, they’re three times as likely to say that Canada is not taking enough refugees, given the ongoing crises. An equal number of each age group say we are taking the right amount:

Younger Canadians are also more open to the accompanying idea that Canada should encourage cultural diversity than older generations. Half (53%) of Millennials say this, compared to fewer than one-in-three Gen Xers (31%) and fewer than one-in-five of those 55 and older (17%). The resonance of viral statements of inclusivity are much more likely to stick in the minds of younger Canadians.

 

This is a common theme: professed values and statements are often most likely to resonate with younger generations. The role of social media also cannot be understated. As the Angus Reid Institute has previously reported  younger Canadians use social media considerably more than other generations, and are therefore more likely to encounter a Prime Ministerial tweet like the one above:

On Carbon Pricing

What Trudeau Says:

“We will finally take real and concrete measures to build a clean economy, create more opportunities for Canadians, and make our world better for our children and grandchildren. With the plan put forward by the government, all Canadian jurisdictions will have put a price on carbon pollution by 2018.”

Statement by the Prime Minister

 

What Millennials Say:

A majority of Millennials say they support the plan. Older generations are less sold, including half of those over 55 who oppose it outright.

On LGBTQ Issues

What Trudeau Says:

In 2016, Trudeau was the first sitting Prime Minister in history to march in the Toronto Pride Parade. He announced in May of this year that his government will offer a formal apology to Canadians who have faced discrimination in government policy and legislation throughout Canada’s history due to their sexuality.

What Millennials Say:

Seven-in-ten Millennials (71%) say that society should be working towards greater acceptance of people who are LGBTQ. And though a majority of all age groups lean in this direction, such high levels of this belief in the 18 to 34 age group suggest that Trudeau, in being so publicly supportive of LGBTQ individuals, is drawing closer ties with young people.

On Condemning Islamophobia

What Trudeau Says:

“If M-103, condemning Islamophobia, actually gets people to notice that there are people (who are) uncomfortable with that idea, that there are people who still have problems with the idea that we would condemn discrimination against Muslims, then we have to know, we have to expose that and we have to deal with it as a society.” The government eventually voted to pass a motion, M-103, condemning Islamophobia.

 

What Millennials Say:

A majority of Millennials voiced the opinion that is in fact necessary for the government to take this symbolic measure to condemn Islamophobia, and to address what it perceives as a problem in society. They’re also twice as likely to say that passing this motion will help to reduce anti-Muslim attitudes in society:

On Security and Terrorism

What Trudeau Says:

In responding to concerns over the previous federal government’s security bill, C-51, which many Canadians said overstepped the personal privacy boundaries of citizens, Trudeau stated that there needed to be a better balance of rights and security.

“Getting that balance right isn’t always easy in the challenging situation we now live in but it’s extremely important.”

Trudeau has thus, been criticized by some opponents for being too soft on the terrorism file.

 

What Millennials Say:

While half of Canadians age 35-54 and more than six-in-ten (63%) over 55 say that the demands of security in the modern age mean that government will have to infringe on civil liberties like personal privacy, the younger generation isn’t convinced.

Further, younger Canadians are far less convinced that homegrown terrorism is a serious threat in this country. For this reason, the perception that Trudeau is not firm enough in his statements about potential threats may not take hold in the Millennial consciousness.

And after the government settled a civil case with Omar Khadr, many Canadians were outraged. While a majority of Canadians of each age group said the government did the wrong thing, Millennials were the group most likely to be satisfied with the government’s decision:

Critics of the PM say that his style is more photo op than policy. In many cases – given the failure to deliver electoral reform, the troubled status of the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, the unpopular Saudi arms deal, among other things, this criticism has its basis in reality. It appears, however, that it is going to take more to dissuade Millennials. Approaching two-years into this government, they’re still firmly in Trudeau’s corner.

Editors’ note: The stories in this Analysis section are opinion pieces. They reflect the views of their authors, not those of the Angus Reid Institute as an organization.

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