Awareness Tracking

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How closely do Canadians follow issues in the news?

For more than three years, the Angus Reid Institute has been asking Canadians some variation of the same question about the issues of the day: “How closely are you following this issue?”

The response categories have been tweaked over the years, but the gist of the scale remains consistent. At the top, respondents indicate seeing a lot of media coverage of a story and a level of interest that leads them to discuss it with friends or family members. At the bottom, respondents indicate a near-total lack of awareness of the issue, saying they’ve seen no coverage or don’t know anything about the story.

In between, the scale draws a distinction between respondents who saw some coverage and had the odd conversation about an issue, and those who only saw headlines and remained largely disengaged.

The sortable table that follows contains data from every time the Angus Reid Institute has asked this question, with a link to our report on the survey in question.

Clicking through the table yields some interesting patterns.

The stories Canadians have paid closest attention to tend to be ones that dominated the international news cycle when they happened, such as the ISIS-sponsored terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, or the early days of Donald Trump’s administration in 2017.

Elections are also big attention-getters, with high numbers saying they were following the 2015 federal election closely and discussing it with friends and family, and similar returns for a Metro Vancouver-only survey on the 2015 transit referendum in that region.

At the other end of the scale – the stories Canadians are most likely to say they haven’t seen or heard anything about – are stories about specific events that might be considered niche in scope: A CRTC decision declining to force large telecommunications companies to lease network capacity to “Mobile Virtual Network Operators,” a decision by the Ontario provincial government to issue gender-neutral birth certificates upon request, and news that the Trudeau government had considered – and ultimately decided against – privatizing the country’s eight largest airports.

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