Canadians becoming more accepting of immigrants and refugees, despite pandemic, survey suggests

The latest from the Environics Institute, which has been tracking immigration attitudes for some 30 years with consistent questions and is one of the more reliable surveys.

Stronger levels of support than I would have expected given COVID-19, highlighting the degree to which Canadian attitudes differ from most other countries:

Canadians are steadily becoming more open and accepting of immigrants and refugees despite uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey indicates.

In the past year, Canadians’ views toward immigration became more positive than they have been in more than four decades, according to a new survey from Environics Institute, Century Initiative and the University of Ottawa.

The poll provided exclusively to The Globe and Mail shows that two-thirds of Canadians now reject the idea that immigration levels are too high.

When asked if respondents agree or disagree with the statement: “Overall, there is too much immigration to Canada,” 66 per cent said they disagree, an increase of three percentage points from last year, while 27 per cent said they agree with the statement, down seven percentage points, and fewer than 7 per cent have a clear opinion either way.

Strength in opinion has also shifted, the survey found, with 39 per cent of Canadians strongly disagreeing with the statement, and the trend is consistent across the country and among different demographics.

The survey report said that since the pandemic left millions of Canadians out of work and confined to their homes, people might be expected to turn away from immigration. But it said the results indicate the pandemic has not diminished Canadians’ openness.

Keith Neuman, senior associate of Environics, said the overall positive trend is significant because it’s not specific to certain parts of the population.

“We’re seeing this kind of positive trend in almost every region and demographic group we’ve identified, so it is not limited to simply east versus west or only young people, or only people with the most education, or income,” he said.

Mr. Neuman said even groups who have historically been less supportive of immigration became more supportive over the past year.

The survey report said the increase in support of current immigration levels is noticeable among Albertans, people with lower household incomes and first-generation Canadians.

Past surveys showed views on immigration polarized along political lines, but Mr. Neuman said this gap narrowed a bit over the past year.

The survey shows 81 per cent of NDP supporters favour the current immigration levels, as do 75 per cent of Liberal Party voters, both up a tad since last year. The positive trend is most noticeable among federal Conservative Party supporters, with 52 per cent disagreeing with the statement that there is too much immigration to Canada, up seven percentage points.

The survey also shows that 84 per cent of respondents agreed immigration has a positive impact on the Canadian economy, up four percentage points from last year. Fifty per cent of respondents strongly agree with the statement that over all, immigration has a positive impact on the economy, and 12 per cent disagree, with 4 per cent having no opinion.

“Belief in immigration as an economic driver is the majority view across the country, expressed by over 70 per cent in every province and identified demographic group,” the report said.

Seventy-eight per cent of Canadians disagreed with the statement “Immigrants take jobs away from other Canadians,” reflecting a significant increase of 11 percentage points from 2015. This view is also reflected in every region and demographic.

Mr. Neuman said this survey is conducted every six months, when possible, but at least annually, and repeats the same questions to determine how sentiment evolves.

He said every question shows people feel more positive about immigrants.

“What we’re seeing is the continuation of a trend that has been happening for the last few years. So these trend lines for the most part have not reversed, they’re extending the trend we started seeing particularly about two years ago.”

The survey of 2,000 Canadians was conducted Sept. 8 to 23, 2020, through telephone interviews on landline and cellphone. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points in 19 times out of 20.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canadians-becoming-more-accepting-of-immigrants-and-refugees-despite/

Link to report: https://www.environicsinstitute.org/docs/default-source/project-documents/fc-fall-2020—immigration/focus-canada-fall-2020—public-opinion-on-immigration-refugees—final-report.pdf?sfvrsn=bd51588f_2

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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