These might sound like absurdly unrealistic questions to even bother asking: Should the United States invade Canada to take advantage of our natural resources? Should Uncle Sam offer to buy Alberta for their oil and gas sector? Should America build a wall between the two nations, or put U.S troops at the Canadian border?
And yet, many Americans aren’t quick to dismiss any of these ideas, according to a new survey from polling firm Abacus Data. Nearly one in five Americans polled (17 per cent) said they support the invasion idea. More than 40 per cent were in favour of trying to buy Alberta. One in five were all for building a wall, while more than a quarter of Americans supported positioning troops near the border.
“There were few things in here that were designed to be preposterous, but to basically to ask how free ranging is public opinion in the United States,” says Bruce Anderson, chairman of Abacus Data and co-author of the report, provided exclusively to Maclean’s. “The questions about whether to build a wall to Canada, invade Canada or buy Alberta were there to measure a level of careful thought that exists in the U.S. marketplace about this relationship.”
But as with so many issues, Americans’ view of where this courtship is going is defined by political stripe: 41 per cent of Republicans surveyed think America’s relationship has improved with Canada since Donald Trump took office, compared to eight per cent who think it’s gotten worse. Conversely, 15 per cent of Democrats think the U.S.-Canada relationship has improved under Trump, compared to 41 per cent who don’t. On the question of whether Trump has done a good job managing relations with Canada, 93 per cent of Trump voters approved, compared to just 19 per cent of Joe Biden voters.
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When Americans look overseas, the same political divide prevails. Republicans, echoing President Donald Trump, are overwhelmingly more likely to say America’s relationships have improved with Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, compared to Democrats who say international relations have gotten worse.
“It looks to me that Americans aren’t aware of how they’ve been relating to the rest of the world under Trump’s presidency,” Anderson says. “It’s hard to look at Angela Merkel and Donald Trump and say that relationship is a good one, but Republicans see it differently.”
Canada is still Uncle Sam’s best friend in their eyes (garnering 41 per cent of Americans’ first choice as BFF in this survey), and is also their top choice as country—excluding the U.S., itself—that would act in a way that’s good for people around the world (43 per cent.)
If there is some consensus, it’s that Democrats and Republicans alike think Prime Minister Trudeau has done a good job managing the Canada-U.S. relationship. Meanwhile, half of Americans think Trump—who at various points during his time in office has called Trudeau “two-faced,” “meek and mild,” “very dishonest and weak”—has done either a good job or very good job at managing Canada’s relationship with the U.S. (And one-quarter of them say that America has “for sure” acted like a bully to Canada since Trump took office.)
Beyond the Canada relationship, the Trump factor also appears to be having an effect on Americans’ attitudes about their own country and its place in the world. Make America Great Again? Between the bullying, name-calling or threats, nearly three out of every five Americans—including 20 per cent of Republicans—say Trump has made America weaker as a nation.
Leader of the free world? Not so fast. Nearly half of Americans say they while they once were leaders of the free world, it’s not the case anymore. Nearly 20 per cent more believe that moniker never truly fit. All of which is to say, “every time a politician says America is the leader of the free world, two-thirds of people who hear that in America don’t believe that’s true,” Anderson adds.
But while Democrats and Republicans can debate their country’s greatness and faults, there is alarming consensus on one vital question: more than 85 per cent of supporters from both parties say there is a chance that the divide is so great in America that it will lead to another civil war. In fact, the majority of Americans said there is “a serious chance” of this happening.