Conservatives, Liberals rank economy high in immigration file, but diverge on integration, cultural values, says survey

What one would expect given other polling data but still of interest:

Conservatives and Liberals tend to agree that jobs and the economy should rank high when it comes to the immigration file, but concerns for the plight of refugees and integration of immigrants depends on where one falls on the political spectrum, suggests a new study released today.

Whereas many Conservatives prioritize on cultural values, national security, and jobs, the Liberals and NDP place less importance on those concerns, according to a survey from the Digital Democracy Project, a months-long effort that the Public Policy Forum and McGill University’s Max Bell School of Public Policy are leading.

“Partisans differ in terms of what they’re talking about when they talk about immigration, what dimensions … they think about,” said Peter Loewen, a political science professor at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, one of the report’s authors.

Respondents were asked to rank eight dimensions related to immigration, including social services and welfare; diversity and multiculturalism; and illegal immigration, were of high concern.

For example, Conservative partisans expressed more concern over illegal immigration than other partisans, with 42 per cent saying it’s a concern, compared to 28 and 27 per cent of respondents who identified as Liberal and NDP supporters, respectively, the survey suggested.

The data, based on an online panel survey of 1,559 Canadians, was conducted from Sept. 11 to 16. Online polls are not considered to be truly random and cannot be assigned a margin of error.

There are marked differences between the Liberals and NDP on the immigration file, too. NDP supporters rank Canada’s responsibility towards welcoming refugees as higher on the list over jobs and the economy, while Liberal supporters indicated it as less of a priority, with 29 per cent choosing it as a top concern, compared to 44 per cent who identify with the NDP.

Researchers also found that most Canadians are misinformed about Canada’s immigration levels and refugee intake. Asked how many refugees Canada admitted in 2018, only 12 per cent answered correctly, 61 per cent were unsure, and 24 per cent said it was higher than the actual figure of 28,000.

“The worrying takeaway is that the more people are exposed to traditional news, to social media, the more likely they are to give incorrect answers about immigration levels, refugee intake levels,” Prof. Loewen said. “People are taking misinformation from somewhere in the ecosystem.”

Nativism could also explain differences in views on immigration policy, the report noted. In seeking to measure the level of nativist sentiments with a series of questions, researchers found that while Canadians “exhibit modest levels of nativism,” Liberal and NDP supporters have lower scores than Conservative supporters. (To measure respondents’ openness to nativist sentiments, they were asked to rate six statements, including whether they agree “immigrants take jobs from real Canadians” and if Canada “would be stronger if we stopped immigration,” on a five-point scale.

Attempts to provide information on the economic benefits of immigration had an influence on respondents’ perception of immigration, according to the study. Half of respondents were given an excerpt from a 2018 Conference Board of Canada report that said immigrants are key to economic growth. Among those who weren’t given the report, 23 per cent said immigration was bad for the economy and 57 per cent said it was good. Those figures changed slightly to 19 per cent and 63 per cent among those who viewed the report.

“While theories of motivated reasoning suggest that partisan respondents will reject information that doesn’t conform to their existing values or beliefs, the effect of this intervention was stronger for right-leaning partisans than for left-leaning partisans,” the report noted. “…This suggests that providing the public with relevant information could also influence their opinions on public policy, and that nativism is not as much of an immutable sentiment as commonly believed.”

Though Canada isn’t immune from nativist and populist sentiments, the report noted that such expressions don’t mimic the trends in the U.S. and “far-right parties in Europe.” The report suggested that the embrace of populist sentiments is “most common” among NDP supporters than Liberals, while the Conservatives are in between.

Previous studies from the Digital Democracy Project have looked at how Canadians consume and share media and its effects on their support for policies in the lead-up to the federal election.

Source: Conservatives, Liberals rank economy high in immigration file, but diverge on integration, cultural values, says survey

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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