SFU survey finds Canadians vulnerable to populist messaging

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The good news first. A whopping 77 per cent of Canadians prefer democracy as a system of government according to results from a public opinion survey conducted by SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

The survey is part of the centre’s ongoing Strengthening Canadian Democracy project and shows a 12-point increase from a survey conducted two years ago.

However other survey results found that 68 per cent of Canadians are convinced elected officials don’t care about what people like them think. Fifty-three per cent would support a leader who took a “Canada-first” approach, even if this negatively affected relations with Canada’s allies.

Building on two years of interviews and practical research on the state of democracy in Canada, the survey examines how Canadians currently feel about various aspects of democracy. The study found that Canadians are committed to democracy but feel that the system is not working for them.

Up to 77 per cent believed fake or misleading news to be a problem for democracy.

In other findings, 61 per cent of Canadians in urban/suburban areas feel Canada is governed democratically versus 45 per cent of rural residents.

Canadians who have completed a university education with a bachelor’s degree or higher are significantly more likely to hold positive views of democracy in Canada (84 per cent) than those with high school or less (68 per cent).

Youth aged 18-24 and Canadians aged 65+ are more convinced than other age groups (64 per cent) that they can have an impact on their democracy through voting or making an effort to influence government.

Youth aged 18-24 are least likely to believe that government ignores the interests of ordinary Canadians in favour of the establishment.

Twenty-four per cent of Canadians think Canada has too much protection of minorities compared to 33 per cent who think it has too little. Twenty-eight per cent believe Canada has too many protections for freedom of religion compared to 16 per cent who think it has too little.

Seventy per cent of respondents supported the use of experts in making policy, with 71 per cent saying that they would be less likely to support a candidate who promotes strong anti-government views.

All in all, the survey throws up hopeful yet slightly troubling conclusions about how Canadians feel about government and its policies. -CINEWS

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