Millions believe in conspiracy theories in Canada

Interesting public opinion research and worrisome. The “great replacement” slide below is the one that most attracted my attention. It does track, to a certain extent, the Focus Canada question, “Too many immigrants do not adapt Canadian values,” 48 percent Fall 2021:

We recently completed nationwide surveying among 1500 Canadians.  The focus was on the levels of trust people have in institutional sources of information, and belief in conspiracy theories.  This is the second in a series called “Trust & Facts: What Canadians Believe”

• 44% (the equivalent of 13 million adults) believe “big events like wars, recessions and the outcomes of elections are controlled by small groups of people working in secret against us”. Almost as many agree “much of our lives are being controlled by plots hatched in secret places

• 37% (or 11 million) think “there is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native born Canadians with immigrants who agree with their political views. This is an articulation of what is commonly referred to as replacement theory.

• 20% believe it is definitely or probably true that “the World Economic Forum is a group of global elites with a secretive strategy to impose their ideas on the world.” Another 37% think it is possibly true or aren’t sure either way.

• 13% think it is definitely or probably true that Microsoft founder Bill Gates is using microchips to track people and affect human behaviour. Another 21% say it’s possible, or aren’t really sure.

A deeper dive into demographic and other variables that correlate with these beliefs revealed:

• Belief in these theories is higher among supporters of the People’s Party, those who self-identify on the right of the spectrum, those who have not received any COVID-19 shots, and those who think media and official government accounts of events can’t be trusted. Those who feel Pierre Poilievre is the Conservative leadership candidate closest to their values and ideas are more likely to believe these theories when compared to those who feel more aligned with Jean Charest.

 

THE UPSHOT

Canadians who want to believe that Canadian society is relatively unaffected by conspiracy thinking will find little comfort in these results. Millions believe that our lives are controlled by secret plots to undermine our interests.

That such beliefs correlate strongly with the instinct to mistrust what media report and what governments say –is a challenge that threatens all institutions that depend on an informed body politic and is like a poison affecting our civil discourse. Only recently we’ve witnessed how a massive demand for the protection offered by Covid 19 vaccines fostered a strenuous effort by those who disbelieve government and media to deny the value of those same vaccines.

This question of whether people can and should trust in institutional voices and known facts is the central theme running through the current leadership dynamic within the Conservative Party leadership race. The data make it clear that to compete for votes from the People’s Party base, Conservatives could choose to embrace conspiracy thinking, but in so doing would alienate a good portion of others, and create hesitancy among half their current voter coalition.

Perhaps the most disconcerting thing in these numbers is the fact that mistrust of institutional accounts isn’t simply neutral skepticism – it is often accompanied by a willingness to believe dangerous contrarian theories. This threatens to undermine the ability of political parties, businesses, civil society groups, and governments to help build consensus and make progress together.

Source: Millions believe in conspiracy theories in Canada

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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