Two Canadas? Regional divisions over direction of the country, hope for future, define start to the year

by David Korzinski | January 14, 2020 9:30 pm

Quebecers happy and hopeful while Albertans largely anxious and pessimistic

January 15, 2020 – The prospect of a new year is bringing new concerns and anxieties for some Canadians, and a bullish outlook for others. How they feel has largely to do with where they live.

A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds a national average of six-in-ten Canadians satisfied with the way things are going in Canada today. But most of these people are concentrated in Quebec, Ontario, Atlantic Canada and, to a lesser extent, British Columbia.

The outlook in the other western provinces looks entirely different. Seven-in-ten Albertans (71%), three-in-five Saskatchewan residents (61%), and close to half of Manitobans (46%) voice dissatisfaction. Further, the proportion of dissatisfied residents has risen in each of the four western provinces since 2016. Increases in Alberta (+24) and Saskatchewan (+18) are most stark.

This unhappiness is inextricably linked to political perspectives and what partisans want to see from their government. For those who supported the Liberals in October, satisfaction is almost unanimous (90%). Conservative voters, meanwhile, are three times less likely to share this view (31%).

That said, Canadians are apparently divorcing some of their dissatisfaction with the country from views about their own, individual future. At least three-in-five residents in every region of the country say they are optimistic about what the future holds for them, personally.

More Key Findings:


About ARI

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 foundation 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.



State of the nation

 For the majority of Canadians, 2020 begins in a reasonably good state. Six-in-ten (61%) say they are satisfied with the way things are going in Canada today. This feeling appears to have remained consistent over the last few years, as polling by the Institute from 2016[1] shows nearly the same level of satisfaction:

Regional divide in perspectives

 There are, however, wide regional divisions on this question of satisfaction with the direction of the country. Amid concerns about western alienation that have dominated discussions[2] in political circles in recent years, both Alberta and Saskatchewan residents lean toward dissatisfaction, and Manitoba residents are divided. Conversely, three-quarters of Quebec residents are comfortable with the way things are going:

These provincial discrepancies correlate with the findings of another Angus Reid Institute[3] study related to economic confidence released in November. Albertans were three times as likely than Quebec residents to say that their standard of living has worsened in the last year (56% to 18%).

Notably, satisfaction with the direction of the country has dropped in all western provinces, most noticeably in Alberta and Manitoba, and is close to unchanged, or improved in the eastern regions of the country:

Men are more disappointed than women with the state of the country. Half of men (46%) say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going, while one-third of women (32%) say the same. Age, meanwhile, appears to play no real factor in opinions (see detailed tables[4]):

Political points of view

Politics play an important role in perception of this issue. Those who supported the Conservative Party in the recent federal election are overwhelmingly likely to say that they are dissatisfied with the way things are going. Indeed, just three-in-ten (31%) say the country is on the right track. This, compared to nine-in-ten Liberal supporters (90%) and more than 64 per cent of all other major federal party backers:

Feelings about the future

Personal hopes are high

While a significant portion of the population feels things are going very poorly in Canada today, the sentiment that they are personally at risk of suffering in the future is relatively uncommon. When Canadians look at their own lives, three-quarters are inclined to say they are optimistic about their personal future, and even six-in-ten residents from Alberta and Saskatchewan agree. Quebecers again lead in national optimism, with 87 per cent saying good things are still to come from a personal perspective.

Finances are a factor in this equation, but perhaps not to the level one might assume. While Canadians are slightly more likely to be optimistic at the higher ends of the household income spectrum, seven-in-ten are still positive at the lower end as well:

Less optimism at the provincial, national level

 While optimism is high when it comes to personal perspectives, hope evaporates among a considerable group of Canadians when they cast their eyes to the broader picture. Compared to the three-quarters who say their own future is bright, just 53 per cent hold this view when it comes to their own province, and just 56 per cent when it comes to the nation.

The number of Canadians feeling optimistic about their own futures has held firm over the past few years, as have opinions about provincial outlooks. The one element of prognostication where Canadian views have soured is with respect to the future of the country. The percentage saying they have a rosy view of Canada’s future has dropped by seven points:

The contrast in provincial outlooks is particularly staggering. Three provinces, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, are split in opinion. British Columbians and Quebecers are most positive, with firm majorities in each saying they are optimistic about the future path of the province. Atlantic Canadians and especially Albertans, however, are pessimistic. Negativity is most pronounced in Alberta, where three-quarters of residents (77%) are pessimistic about the future of their home jurisdiction:

Regional breakdowns are similar when it comes to the future of the country, though Atlantic Canadians are considerably more positive about the country’s future than their own:

Does politics determine positivity?

 Where the national picture is concerned, politics tells the story. As was the case with perspectives on satisfaction with the direction of the country, discussed in part one, Liberals and Conservatives hold wildly divergent mindsets. Nearly nine-in-ten Liberal Party voters (86%) say that they are optimistic about the future of Canada. Conversely, just 25 per cent of those who supported the CPC in October agree with them. Three-quarters (75%), meanwhile, are pessimistic. Green Party and NDP voters are more reserved in their optimism, but lean toward positivity themselves:

Majorities across all ages think next generation is in trouble

In 2016, the Angus Reid Institute asked Canadians if they felt that young people starting out now, hoping to establish themselves and reach the same standard of living as their parents and grandparents, are facing tougher conditions than previous generations. Millennials overwhelmingly agreed[5] that they have it worse, and to the surprise of some, half of Canadians over the age of 55 felt the same way.

Related: Millennials think they have it tougher than past generations, and half of boomers agree[6]

Changing economic conditions[7], climate change[8] and global instability[9] all likely play a factor in sentiment today, which finds six-in-ten Canadians across all age categories pessimistic about the future for young people:

Optimism regarding the future of the next generation has remained relatively consistent over the past three years, though, notably, the percentage of young adults (ages 18 to 34) reporting a positive outlook has dropped by 11 points since 2016:

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.[10]

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here.[11]

Click here to read the full questionnaire used in this report.[12]


Shachi Kurl, Executive Director: 604.908.1693[13] @shachikurl

Image Credit – Photo 146787074[14] © Shopkez[15] |[16]

  1. polling by the Institute from 2016:
  2. dominated discussions:
  3. another Angus Reid Institute:
  4. see detailed tables:
  5. overwhelmingly agreed:
  6. Related: Millennials think they have it tougher than past generations, and half of boomers agree:
  7. economic conditions:
  8. climate change:
  9. global instability:
  10. click here.:
  11. click here.:
  12. Click here to read the full questionnaire used in this report.:
  14. 146787074:
  15. Shopkez:

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