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Trans-Pacific Partnership: Uncertainty reigns among half of Canadians as federal government signs trade deal

Canadians expect the deal to have a positive effect on consumer choices, less so on the economy, jobs


February 4, 2016 – As the federal government moves Canada another step closer to joining the Trans Pacific Partnership by signing the 12-nation deal, it does so on behalf of a population so undecided about the agreement that one-in-two can’t offer an opinion about it.

Indeed, the proportion of Canadians saying they’re not sure whether they support or oppose joining the TPP has actually increased – albeit slightly – since the full text of the pact was released in November.

Further – as may surprise both proponents and opponents of the deal – major segments of the population say they anticipate “no impact” – rather than a positive or negative effect – even on the sensitive topic of jobs in their communities.

Key Findings:Angus Reid

  • Nearly half of all Canadians (49%) say they don’t know enough about the TPP to form an opinion. Among those who do, support continues to out-pace opposition by a margin of 3:2.
  • Canadians are roughly three times more likely to say the agreement will have a positive effect on consumer choices than to say it will have a negative effect. They’re also more likely to see positive than negative effects for the economy as a whole
  • On the question of jobs in their own communities however, 31 per cent of Canadians see a negative impact, while roughly one-in-five (22%) see a positive one.

As ratification approaches, Canadians remain unsure about the TPP

Signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not the final step in the process of joining the trade agreement, but it is a significant one. Signing the document keeps Canada at the negotiating table as Parliament debates whether to ratify – and formally join – the agreement.

After eroding from an initial high of 41 per cent in April 2015, public support for joining the TPP seems to have stabilized at around one-in-three Canadians (32%), as seen in the following graph:

Opposition and uncertainty have also remained remarkably consistent over time. Whether opinion on the deal will change as government begins its promised public consultation on the deal remains to be seen.

Politically, the deal remains most popular with Canadians who voted for Stephen Harper and the Conservatives in the 2015 election, and least popular with those who supported Thomas Mulcair and the New Democrats. It should be noted that uncertainty is high among supporters of each party, however, as seen in the following graph:

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Uncertainty is also far higher among women than men (60% versus 37%), and among Canadians younger than age 55 (see comprehensive tables for greater detail).

How would joining the TPP affect Canada?

In its previous poll about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Angus Reid Institute found roughly three-in-ten Canadians choosing “don’t know,” when asked about the impact the deal might have on jobs, consumer choices, and the Canadian economy overall.

For this survey, ARI asked respondents to choose either positive, negative, or “no impact.” The proportion of Canadians choosing either positive or negative remains largely unchanged, with most uncertain respondents settling on “no impact.”

The big benefit of the TPP in the eyes of Canadians is in consumer choices. Roughly three times as many believe the partnership will have a positive impact on this as believe it will have a negative one:

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Canadians are also bullish, although slightly less so, about the TPP’s impact on their country’s economy as a whole. Those who see a positive impact are the largest group (42%), but more than one-in-four say the pact will hurt the economy (28%), almost as many as see it having “no impact:”

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On employment and jobs in their community, Canadians are much less optimistic about the effect of joining the TPP. Roughly one-in-five think the deal will have a positive impact on this aspect of the economy (22%), while a larger number (31%) foresee a negative impact. There is also a large number who think the deal will have no impact on jobs and employment:

Angus Reid Institute

Analysis: Selling the benefits (or detriments) of the TPP

The large number of Canadians who see the Trans-Pacific Partnership as likely to have “no impact” on each item canvassed in this survey indicates that there is ample room for both supporters and opponents of the pact to convince people to join their side.

Indeed, while more Canadians say the deal’s impact on the economy and consumer choices will be positive than negative – and more say the opposite about its impact on jobs – no single option captures a majority of respondents.

 

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

Click here for the questionnaire used in this survey

MEDIA CONTACT:

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

Image Credit – Fiona Goodall