Canadians Are Divided on the Actual Effect of Immigration

People in Canada are split when assessing immigration, and only three-in-ten believe the country should continue to be a mosaic, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative sample of 1,005 Canadian adults, 39 per cent of respondents believe that immigration is having a positive effect in Canada, while 39 per cent think it is having a negative effect.

Views on Legal and Illegal Immigration

Since September 2010, the proportion of Canadians who think immigration is having a positive effect in the country has increased by five points. Respondents aged 18-to-34 are more likely to regard immigration in a positive light (48%) than middle-aged Canadians (33%) and those over the age of 55 (39%).

Two-in-five Canadians (41%) think the number of legal immigrants who are allowed to relocate in Canada should decrease, including almost half of respondents aged 35-to-54 (46%).

The views of Canadians on illegal immigration have hardened over the past 14 months. Half of respondents (50%, +6 since September 2010) believe illegal immigrants in Canada take jobs away from Canadian workers. In addition, only 23 per cent of respondents would allow illegal immigrants to stay in Canada and eventually apply for citizenship, while 50 per cent think illegal immigrants should be required to leave their jobs and be deported.


Three-in-five Canadians (62%) think multiculturalism has been good for the country, including 72 per cent of respondents aged 18-to-34. However, more Canadians (58%) are likely to endorse the concept of the melting pot—immigrants assimilating and blending into Canadian society—than the mosaic (30%), where cultural differences within society are valuable and should be preserved.

At least one-in-four respondents believe Canada is an intolerant society towards Muslims (33%), Aboriginal Canadians (28%) and immigrants from South Asia, such as India and Pakistan (25%). A third of Canadians (32%) believe that racism is a significant problem in Canada, while 55 per cent disagree with this view.


The proportion of Canadians who believe immigration is having a negative effect in the country is the lowest in the past four years. The main source of hostility appears to be illegal immigration, with half of Canadians calling for unlawful workers to return to their country of origin. This level of support for the deportation of illegal immigrants is 11 points lower than what was observed in Britain in December 2011, but seven points higher than in the United States in December 2010.

Younger Canadians are more likely to back the idea of a “path to citizenship” for illegal workers, but sizeable majorities of middle-aged and older respondents reject this idea.

The positive views on multiculturalism drop markedly with age, from 72 per cent for those aged 18-to-34, to 63 per cent among those aged 35-to-54, and to 50 per cent for those over the age of 55. Middle-aged and older Canadians are also more likely to support the concept of the melting pot than the mosaic.

Review our September 2010 and November 2010 surveys on immigration and multiculturalism.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

Full Tables (PDF)

Methodology: From January 26 to January 27, 2012, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,005 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panellists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. 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 Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

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