Politics and disengagement: Two-in-five say there’s “no room” for compromise in Canada; most say their interests are ignored

Politics and disengagement: Two-in-five say there’s “no room” for compromise in Canada; most say their interests are ignored

Fewer than half say Canada has a “good system of government”


February 4, 2022 – Scenes of anger, defiance and resentment on the streets of Ottawa this week appear to be symptomatic of a broader sense of disengagement and frustration with the state of Canadian democracy, according to new data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute.

This latest ARI study finds Canadians equally divided over whether the country can be accurately described as having a “good system of government”; 42 per cent do, 45 per cent do not.

And while some may argue that the collaboration required in a minority government is a feature of the nation’s democracy and not a bug, the sense is that partisanship and politics may be preventing the type of cooperation that would produce better results for constituents.

Indeed, 37 per cent of Canadians feel that there is no room for political compromise these days in Canada. This proportion is highest in the more conservative core of the country, in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Beyond those areas of anticipated criticism, however, are significant portions of the country across the political spectrum that do not feel well-represented in Ottawa.

In no region of the country do a majority of residents say that they feel the federal government cares about issues important to them. Quebecers are most bullish on this question, with 41 per cent saying they feel heard by Ottawa. Notably, seven-in-ten past Liberal voters (69%) say that this government cares about issues that matter to them, followed by two-in-five of those who supported the NDP (40%) and Bloc Québécois (39%) in September, and just 11 per cent of past CPC voters.

More Key Findings:

  • Fewer than half (47%) of 18- to 34-year-old men say Canada is a country they are proud to live in. For all other demographics, at least two-thirds say so.
  • Women over the age of 55 are the only demographic group where at least half (51%) feels like the federal government is attuned to issues they feel are important.
  • One-third (34%) of Canadians believe elections are becoming less free and fair, more than the number (23%) who believe instead that aspect of democracy is strengthening.

 

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.

 

 

INDEX

Part One: Two-in-five believe there’s no room for political compromise in Canada

  • Three-in-five believe the federal government ignores issues important to them

Part Two: More believe electoral system is weakening than becoming stronger

  • CPC, NDP voters critical of direction of democratic influence

  • Few believe Canada is immune to ‘Trump-style politics’

Part Three: Canadians disagree over quality of their system of government

  • Younger Canadians more disillusioned with government

  • Non-Liberal voters more likely to take issue with Canada’s system of government

 

Part One: Two-in-five believe there’s no room for political compromise in Canada

Divide and division have become common words used in Canadian politics of late. When Erin O’Toole stepped down this week as party leader of the Conservatives after being ousted by a majority vote of party MPs, he asked the next leader to recognize Canada “is divided and people are worried.”

Last month, as a convoy of truckers and their supporters descended on Ottawa, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called them a “divisive group of people on the right.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also criticized the protest, calling them a “fringe minority” with “unacceptable views.” That prompted the ‘d’-word in response from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who said he was concerned by the “divisive comments” from Trudeau on the protest in dismissing the concerns of the protesters.

Little wonder then, that a significant segment of Canadians believe political discourse in this country is devoid of compromise. While just under half (48%) disagree, two-in-five (37%) are of the view that when it comes to talking politics, Canadians have retreated to their corners and are refusing to move.

That feeling is strongest in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where at least two-in-five believe political compromise is lacking in the country, but at least one-third in all regions believe this is the case:

Women are more likely than men to believe there is room for politicians with differing views to work together, while at least two-in-five of men of all ages believe there is no space for political accommodation (see detailed tables).

Echoing the divisiveness in Canada cited by their former leader, past Conservative voters are more likely to believe there is significant political discord in the country – half (48%) say this. While past voters of Canada’s other major parties are more likely to believe there is a middle ground, at least three-in-ten of partisans of all stripes believe there is no room for political compromise:

Three-in-five believe the federal government ignores issues important to them

As a significant minority believes political compromise is unattainable, many are disillusioned with the federal government itself. Three-in-five (59%) believe Ottawa does not care about issues that are important to them.

This is the majority opinion across the country and the sentiment of three-quarters in Alberta (73%) and Saskatchewan (76%). Those in Quebec (41%) and B.C. (39%) are most likely to feel heard by Ottawa:

Women over the age of 55 are the only group where half (51%) feel like the federal government is attuned to issues they feel are important. For every other demographic, more believe Ottawa does not care about their key issues than the opposite, including seven-in-ten men under the age of 55:

The Liberals have formed government since 2015, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led the party to a majority government in his first election as leader. Still, one-quarter (25%) of those who voted Liberal in the 2021 election say they don’t believe the federal government cares about the issues they believe are important. This may be emblematic of a disconnect between the party and its supporters, or a consequence of strategic voting, which has aided the Liberals in the past two elections. For past supporters of the rest of the major political parties, a majority believe this, including nearly all (88%) of those who voted Conservative last fall:

Part Two: More believe electoral system is weakening than becoming stronger

ARI asked Canadians whether a series of significant pillars of strong democracies – the equal application of the rule of law, free and fair elections, protection of human rights, ease of participation in politics, and the concept that power lies with the people – were strengthening or weakening in this country.

On some measures – human rights, ease of participation – more Canadians believe the country has improved than worsened. On others, more Canadians believe the pillars are eroding than standing strong.

One-third (34%) believe there has been damage to the country’s free and fair elections compared to the one-quarter (23%) who believe this aspect of democracy has instead been bolstered. Half (51%) believe the power of the average Canadian is decreasing.

Finally, a majority (53%) believe there has been a weakening when it comes to the equal application of the rule of law. This, notably, as some wonder about the differences in treatment of participants in the “Freedom Convoy” as compared to how past demonstrations by Indigenous and Black Canadians have bene handled.

Across the country, there is significant belief that some of these key tenets of democracy are weakening. That feeling is strongest in Alberta, where two-thirds (67%) believe the equal application of the rule of law is waning and three-in-five (58%) believe elections aren’t as free and fair as they used to be. Only in Quebec does the number of people who believe Canada has strengthened its electoral system (28%) outnumber those who say the opposite (21%):

CPC, NDP voters critical of direction of democratic influence

Young men, and particularly those under the age of 35, are most likely to believe Canada has lost ground on the equal application of the law, human rights, ease of participation in politics, and keeping the power with the people. As well, almost half (46%) of 18- to 34-year-old men say elections have become less free and fair (see detailed tables).

For three of the five of the key tenets presented to respondents, past Liberal voters are more likely to say they are strengthening than weakening. For the others – the power is invested in the people and the rule of law applies equally to everyone – there are near equal numbers who say it is strengthening as weakening.

By contrast, past Conservative and NDP voters are more likely to believe Canada’s equal application of the rule of law and the democratic power of the average Canadian has weakened than strengthened. As well, a majority of CPC voters in the most recent federal election believe there has been a weakening of the electoral process:

Few believe Canada is immune to ‘Trump-style politics’

Last year, for the first time, the Sweden-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance listed the U.S. as a backsliding democracy. The institute cited the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of electoral fraud during the 2020 election as causes for concern.

Related: Majority of Canadians & Americans say January 6 riot was ‘domestic terrorism’

Just one-in-ten (10%) believe Canada is immune to Trump-style politics – which some have defined as based in populism and nationalism, and characterized by deceit, self-aggrandizement, and eroding the checks and balances of government. Four-in-five (81%) instead believe Canada is just a susceptible to Trumpism as our southern neighbour.

This is the overwhelming majority opinion across the country and all demographics (see detailed tables).

Across the political spectrum, at least three-quarters of all partisans believe Canada is vulnerable to Trump-style politics. Those who voted Bloc in the fall are the most likely to believe Canada is immune to Trump’s brand of populism at one-in-five (21%):

Part Three: Canadians disagree over quality of their system of government

Despite much concern over the strength of the country’s pillars of democracy, Canadians are more positive than negative when it comes to their place in the nation overall. Seven-in-ten (71%) say they are proud to live in Canada and three-in-five (63%) believe Canadian society is “caring”. Where there is more division is on Canada’s system of government: equal numbers believe it’s good (42%) as believe it’s not (45%):

ARI asked Canadians similar questions in 2016. Since then, fewer believe Canadian society is caring, while more believe Canada is prosperous. Canadians were similarly divided, then, on whether or not Canada’s system of government is good:

Residents in Alberta and Saskatchewan are the most likely to disagree that Canada’s system of government is good at three-in-five (61%). Those in Quebec (45%) and Atlantic Canada (48%) are more likely to say Canada’s system of government works, but in both those regions there are approaching two-in-five who disagree:

Young Canadians more disillusioned with government

Overall, younger Canadians are much more critical of Canadian society and government than their older peers. Three-in-ten men and women under the age of 35 say it’s accurate that Canada has a good system of government compared to half (50%) of men and three-in-five (59%) of women aged 55 and older who say the same.

As well, fewer than half (47%) of 18- to 34-year-old men say they are proud to live in Canada. For every other demographic, at least two-thirds say so:

Non-Liberal voters more likely to take issue with Canada’s system of government

As the Liberals continue to hold power in a minority parliament, seven-in-ten (69%) of those who voted for the party last fall say they are satisfied with Canada’s system of government. There is not the same level of agreement for those who voted for Canada’s other major parties.

A majority (69%) of past Conservative voters say it’s inaccurate that Canada has a good system of government, and they are joined by two-in-five (42%) past NDP voters and one-third (33%) of those who voted for the Bloc:

Survey Methodology:

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Jan. 27-31, 2022 among a representative randomized sample of 1,620 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.

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

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here

To read the questionnaire in English and French, click here.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693 shachi.kurl@angusreid.org @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821 dave.korzinski@angusreid.org

 


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