A new survey explores what makes us Canadian - Macleans.ca
 

A new survey explores what makes us Canadian

The Canada Project, a major poll of Canadians, finds a welcoming but wary country, where the starkest divides are generational


 

As the 150th anniversary of Confederation approaches, Canadians are still writing the story of this country.

A major survey of 1,515 Canadians conducted as part of The Canada Project shows that in an uncertain world, Canadians are welcoming but wary. Most are still eager to accept Syrian refugees, but they want stronger security along the Canada-U.S. border. They’re open to the notion of screening immigrants for Canadian values.

We’re still a patriotic bunch—92 per cent would cheer for a Canadian national team against a team from another country, and 76 per cent would cheer for “Canada’s team” in the Stanley Cup playoffs, even if it wasn’t their local team.

But that doesn’t mean we’re convinced of the nation’s perfection. Large majorities are concerned about discrimination, and eager to see the wealthiest Canadians contribute more to the country’s success. On important issues—a carbon tax, the monarchy—Canadians are divided.

And the starkest divisions are often generational, not regional. Millennial Canadians, the youngest cohort in the Abacus survey, born between 1980 and 2000, were less likely than older respondents to support screening immigrants for Canadian values. They were also likelier to be willing to pay a carbon tax, and less likely to know how to skate backwards on ice.

RELATED: 24 facts from the Canada Project

“Millennials are the children of Boomers, but on many things, they are very different,” Abacus Data CEO David Coletto told Maclean’s.

The survey was conducted online by Abacus Data on behalf of Maclean’s and other Rogers Media properties from April 4 to 5. A random sample of panellists were invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of more than 500,000 Canadians. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment and region. (It’s hard to assign margins of error for such online surveys. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of 1,515 would be +/- 2.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20.)

Family members from Somalia are helped into Canada by RCMP officers along the U.S.-Canada border near Hemmingford, Que., on Friday, February 17, 2017. A number of refugee claimants are braving the elements to illicitly enter Canada. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Family members from Somalia are helped into Canada by RCMP officers along the U.S.-Canada border near Hemmingford, Que., on Friday, February 17, 2017. A number of refugee claimants are braving the elements to illicitly enter Canada. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Among the survey’s top results:

In the main, Canadians are open to welcoming more Syrian refugees—57 per cent agree. But 70 per cent agree security along the Canada-U.S. border should increase. And 84 per cent agree that new immigrants should be screened to ensure they share Canadian values, including 50 per cent who strongly agree. The notion of screening newcomers was a centrepiece of Kellie Leitch’s attention-grabbing campaign for the federal Conservative party leadership, although her inability to explain details of that policy put an early cap on support for her candidacy.

Canadians are worried about discrimination. Some 62 per cent agree that Islamophobia is a problem, and 74 per cent say Indigenous people face extensive discrimination.

Respondents were wide open to a few rounds of tax-the-rich. Seventy-five per cent disagree that the rich pay enough taxes. And 86 per cent agree that governments should do more to make housing more affordable. This was especially true in British Columbia, where housing really isn’t affordable, but also in Atlantic Canada, where prices are lower but so are incomes.

Just as there’s broad agreement on big issues, so is there intriguing discord on others. By 56 per cent to 44 per cent, respondents to the survey were unwilling to pay a carbon tax to deal with climate change. Nor was opinion evenly distributed on the question: residents of B.C., Atlantic Canada and Quebec were likelier to back a carbon tax out of their own wallet. Residents of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario were likelier to oppose one.

Should Canada remain a monarchy after the day, surely still long distant, when Queen Elizabeth’s epic reign ends? Canadians answer: sure, probably, on balance. Some 56 per cent agreed with keeping the monarchy, against 44 per cent who disagree. Support for the monarchy was lowest in Quebec, though not all that low, at 35 per cent.

Canadians were also divided on whether they’d be willing to pay more taxes for shorter health care wait times. Forty-five per cent thought it was a good idea; 55 per cent disagreed. Millennials and members of Generation X were likelier to agree; older respondents, who perhaps have noticed that higher taxes don’t always correlate with shorter waits, were less likely.

To be sure, there are plenty of issues on which support doesn’t vary by age. Our youngest respondents were about as likely as our oldest to support a tax on foreigners purchasing Canadian houses; about as likely (very) to consider themselves “middle-class”; as reluctant to visit the United States during the Trump presidency (a little less than half in every age group said Trump makes them “less likely” to visit the U.S.); and as likely to pick British Columbia as the province they’d most want to live in, by far the most popular choice.

The Canada Project

But ask whether Canadians should be screened to ensure they share Canadian values and you get nearly a 30-point gap between Millennials (38 per cent “strongly agree”) and pre-Boomers (65 per cent). Half of Millennials were strongly or somewhat willing to pay a carbon tax, compared to 36 per cent of pre-Boomers and 43 per cent of Boomers. The youngest respondents are half as likely as the oldest to agree that Canadians are “not patriotic enough,” and more than three times as likely to believe marijuana should be available for sale in convenience stores (though Millennials were the age cohort least likely to drink alcohol daily or a few times a week. Maybe they’re getting by on pot.)

Millennials are markedly likelier than their older compatriots to get into a self-driving car, given the option, and are three times likelier to have used Uber. Older forms of odd transport are less familiar: Millennials were, by more than 10 points, less likely than other age groups to know how to skate backwards.

The easygoing attitudes of the young don’t always last, of course. Jacques Parizeau’s father used to tell him that if you’re not a communist at 20, you won’t be very interesting when you’re 40. But long-term trends on some topics, including same-sex marriage, suggest that some opinions do stick with generations as they age, moving as they do from the fringe to the mainstream.

The Abacus poll should be required reading, then, to anyone—an advertiser, a political strategist—eager to reach the youngest consumers and voters. They’re the next mainstream. Happy Canada Day.

 


 

A new survey explores what makes us Canadian

  1. nuce

  2. What makes us Canadian? Living beside Americans.

  3. “Canadians were also divided on whether they’d be willing to pay more taxes for shorter health care wait times. Forty-five per cent thought it was a good idea; 55 per cent disagreed. Millennials and members of Generation X were likelier to agree; older respondents, who perhaps have noticed that higher taxes don’t always correlate with shorter waits, were less likely.”

    I agree there may be an element of idealism about this, and in the case of older Canadians, cynicism. But is this particular difference among Canadians mainly generational, or is it to do with the economic class people are in that makes the difference? Perhaps wealthier older Canadians are reluctant to pay out any more in taxes than they have to because they have already invested in employee health care plans or individually paid-for plans to help see them through. Younger Canadians may recognize the need for changes to the system in general, even if that means paying more taxes. And less well-off Canadians may not have much of a voice in this at all.

    • Maybe if you spent most of your life working and at times risking your life for others, and pay taxes through the nose, you would probably realize that more taxes doesn’t equal to better services and health care when most of it goes to outside this country like our national coffers were a magic wallet…

    • True, it’s one thing to notice a trend, and quite another to understand *why* the trend is there.

      But I don’t think that’s the whole story. Personally (and I’m a millennial, though in the older end of the range, since this is part of the discussion), I’d only be willing to pay more taxes if I felt certain that the government was doing everything it could to manage the system effectively…. and I’m not. It’s true that paying more doesn’t always get you better service.

  4. “Millennials are markedly likelier than their older compatriots to get into a self-driving car, given the option, and are three times likelier to have used Uber. ”

    I don’t know what this is doing in here. I am more likely to have been behind the wheel of a Mustang, or a Nash Rambler, a 57 Chev, or a Ford LTD. I don’t know where these cars were made, but my point is, does it make me less Canadian to have experienced these vintage automobiles firsthand than to say I would get into a self-driving car? Perhaps that mentality comes from the inability of so many Canadians to be be able to drive well.

  5. “Millennial Canadians, the youngest cohort in the Abacus survey, born between 1980 and 2000, were less likely than older respondents to support screening immigrants for Canadian values. ”

    They’re probably the generation the least likely to exhibit the kind of values Canada should invest in.

    • Obviously most of these millennials believe in a Utopian world and never experienced being in a war conflict zone to try to clean up the mess. And a lot of these people still believe it’s the west’s fault why their country is in turmoil. Not willing to look in a mirror…Canadian values test? I’m all for it!

  6. “Canadians are worried about discrimination. Some 62 per cent agree that Islamophobia is a problem”

    Islamophobia being seen as a problem is not the same as saying it is a really bad problem. There are people out there who are afraid of Muslims, making Islamophobia a problem. There are also people out there who claim to be Muslims who are killing people of other religions and cultures. We call them terrorists. But is there another label for them that is the equivalent of Islamophobia, or are we not allowed to use it in case we are accused of being racists or Islamophobia? Could this word be Christia-phobia?

    Now as I see it, Christian-phobia is a really big problem. See http://www.ocregister.com/2009/03/09/christia-phobia-is-common-and-hypocritical/

    • Islamophobia is a pseudo problem created by the Trudeau government. His cabinet and the main stream news media swallowed it lock stock and barrel. It;s OK to mute Christians like it has been done for centuries in other countries, and now in Canada. I would be VERY CURIOUS to understand the conversations spoken in Arabic while in shopping malls…

      • S Desaulniers

        How Muslims got the power to be able to influence our gov’t to make Islamophobia seem like a legitimate problem in this country is beyond me. Must be too much time spent with the Agah Khan. I believe much of the problem lies with Christian-raised Canadians who have rejected the religious element of Christianity along with the western traditions associated with it. So old-time Canadians are basically unfamiliar with the traditions of Christianity and in fact have been raised to show tolerance towards Muslims. And that enables them to walk all over us and our traditions, until someone in the future, our country as we know it will no longer exist.

  7. “But that doesn’t mean we’re convinced of the nation’s perfection.” Canadians have always tried not to be Yankees. Continuous improvement typifies Canadian thought. Typical Canadians are soft on everything – and that’s a good thing. It’s not possible to crystallize diversity into values beyond ‘live and let live’ and ‘play nice’: small ‘l’ liberals are decidedly beige. Even the hard core Conservatives went for the middle of the road candidate capable of smiling. Perhaps it’s time to give the ‘Canadian values’ thing a rest as even among Conservatives, that bastion of Canadian iconoclasm, Kelly Leitch could only attract 7% support.