Skip to content

Unlike U.S. neighbours, most Canadians content with state of their democracy: survey

Pew survey found two-thirds of respondents in Canada expressed satisfaction
The U.S. Capitol building, centre, is seen next to the bottom part of the Washington Monument, left, before sunrise on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. A new survey suggests a majority of Canadians are satisfied with the state of their democracy, a stark contrast with their southern neighbours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Julio Cortez

A majority of Canadians are content with the state of their country’s democracy, a new survey suggests — a far cry from the situation in the United States, where Americans appear to be clamouring for reform.

Two-thirds or 66 per cent of respondents in Canada expressed satisfaction with how democracy is working north of the border, with 33 per cent saying otherwise, the Pew Research Center survey found.

The only countries to register higher on the satisfaction scale were Singapore at 82 per cent, Sweden with 79 per cent and New Zealand with 76 per cent.

In the U.S., however, 58 per cent of participants said they’re unhappy with how things are working, while just 41 per cent expressed a measure of satisfaction in a country long hailed around the world as a beacon of democratic values.

Those numbers put the U.S. fifth from the bottom, ahead of only Japan, Spain, Italy and Greece, which registered lowest at 31 per cent.

The Canadian portion of the telephone survey was conducted among 1,011 respondents between March 15 and May 3 — several months prior to a status-quo federal election that saw the return of a minority Liberal government.

The poll carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

“There are six nations — Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand — where the desire for reform is relatively low,” Pew said in a release.

“Fewer than half of those surveyed in all six countries want significant reform to their political, economic or health care systems. Satisfaction with democracy is also notably high in these nations.”

The survey breaks the topline findings down into three specific categories: politics, economics and health care.

The schism between Canada and the U.S. is especially wide when it comes to the political systems in each country.

In the U.S., 85 per cent of respondents said their system of government needs either major changes or total reform, compared with just 47 per cent in Canada.

On health care, 76 per cent of American participants called for similarly dramatic change, with just 43 per cent of Canadians feeling the same way.

Forty-six per cent said they want to overhaul or change Canada’s economic system, compared with 66 per cent of Americans surveyed.

The Pew study also found a direct correlation between public attitudes about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the appetite for reform.

In Canada, 34 per cent of those respondents who were satisfied with how the federal government handled COVID-19 were calling for significant political reform, compared with 73 per cent among those unhappy with the government’s pandemic strategy.

In the U.S., that gap is almost non-existent: 83 per cent and 88 per cent, respectively.

—James McCarten, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Democracy takes work, Trudeau says in condemning ‘violent rioters’ incited by Trump