Anti-Oil Sands Ads Could Severely Affect Alberta’s Brand and Tourism

Likelihood of Americans and Britons visiting Alberta plummets after watching the ad that portrays oil sands as an environmental hazard.

A three-country Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found that a campaign designed to link Alberta’s oil sands with damaging environmental practices could have a devastating impact on the province’s brand and tourism industry.

The online survey of representative national samples of 1,012 Canadian, 1,013 American, and 1,956 British adults sought to gauge public reaction to the “Rethink Alberta” campaign, which was launched last month by environmental groups and includes an online video, a website and billboards.

At the start of the survey, 49 per cent of Americans and 54 per cent of Britons said they would “definitely” or “probably” consider visiting Alberta if they were planning a holiday today.

However, after respondents were shown the 1:40 minute ad that “Rethink Alberta” has posted on YouTube, the perceptions of Americans and Britons clearly soured.

After watching the ad, only 26 per cent of Americans and 24 per cent of Britons would still “definitely” or “probably” consider travelling to Alberta. In fact, the proportion of those who would “definitely not” plan a holiday in Alberta increased from 15 per cent to 34 per cent among American respondents, and from 12 per cent to 31 per cent among British respondents.

Assessment of the Ad

Respondents in the three countries were asked to choose up to four adjectives to describe the online video.

In Canada, only five per cent of Albertans say the ad is fair but over a fifth of respondents in all other provinces—including 36 per cent in Ontario—describe it as fair. For Albertans, the ad is mostly deceiving (79%), unfair (67%), offensive (60%), and untrue (45%).

Over seven-in-ten respondents in the U.S., including 80 per cent in the South and 79 per cent in the Northeast, say the ad is informative. More than a third of Americans—including 46 per cent in the South—call it honest.

In Britain, at least three-in-ten respondents (40% in Scotland) think the ad is truthful and, just like in the U.S., a very large majority of respondents (at least 73%) deem it informative. London holds the highest proportion of respondents who describe the video as unfair (still quite low at 17%).

Oil Sands and the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

After watching the ad, Canadians are reticent to agree with the allegation that the environmental impact of Alberta’s oil industry is actually worse than the environmental impact of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While only 27 per cent of Canadians agree with this statement—made last month by Michael Marx of Corporate Ethics International—two-in-five Americans (43%) and Britons (42%) do agree with the notion that Alberta’s oil industry is damaging the environment in a greater way than the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The ad that was shown to survey respondents can be seen here.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

Methodology: From July 22 to August 1, 2010, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,012 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists; 1,013 American adults who are Springboard America panelists; and 1,956 British adults who are Springboard UK panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1% in Canada and the U.S., and 2.2% in Britain. 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 population of the three countries. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

Mario Canseco comments on the findings for CBC News.

Tags assigned to this article:
AlbertaOilOil sandsTourism

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