Seven in 10 Canadians support increasing the number of refugees from Syria, and a majority agree with the idea of airlifting Syrian refugees at Canada’s expense, according to a new poll conducted by Nanos Research for CTV News and The Globe and Mail.

At the same time, those polled were divided on which party leader has had the best response to the issue.

The poll found a total of 71 per cent either support (44%) or somewhat support (27%) “increasing the current quota of refugees from Syria,” while about one in four oppose (17%) or somewhat oppose (10%) an increase. Only a small number -- three per cent -- are unsure.

Support for upping the quota is higher in Ontario (71%) and British Columbia (85%), and lower in the Prairies (67%), Atlantic Canada (69%) and Quebec (65%).

When asked about “having the government of Canada incur the costs to airlift refugees out of Syria” -- a proposal made by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau earlier this month -- about six in 10 either support (29%) or somewhat support (28%) the idea, while about four in 10 either oppose (24%) or somewhat oppose (15%) that plan. Again, only a small number -- four per cent -- are unsure.

A larger proportion -- 19 per cent -- said they are unsure about “which of the federal party leaders … has been best at responding to this issue.”
On that question, 28 per cent chose Harper, 25 per cent picked Trudeau and 21 per cent went with Mulcair. Five per cent chose Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. Two per cent chose Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe.

Men surveyed were more likely to prefer Harper’s response (33%) over Trudeau’s (24%) or Mulcair’s (22%). Among women, 27 per cent chose Trudeau, 23 per cent picked Harper and 20 per cent opted for Mulcair.

Pollster Nik Nanos called the data “a mixed bag for Stephen Harper.”

“People marginally think he’s done a better job at handling this compared to Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair,” Nanos said. “But Canadians overwhelmingly want greater quotas for Syrians coming into the country and are open to airlifting Syrian refugees.”

“Ontario and British Columbia – the two regions that will decide the outcome of the election – are more likely to support more refugees coming into Canada and also airlifting Syrian refugees,” he said, calling that result “a bit of a problem for Stephen Harper.”

Political promises

The Liberals have said they would take in 25,000 Syrian refugees in “as rapid fashion as possible.” Trudeau told CTV earlier this month that he would send Canadian military planes, along with security officials to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria to airlift Syrian refugees out of the region, just like Canada did in 1979 to assist Vietnamese refugees. This would cost about $100 million, he said.

The NDP has committed to resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015, and to increase the number of government-sponsored Syrian refugees by 9,000 annually for the subsequent four years, for a total of 46,000.

Under the Conservatives, Canada agreed in 2013 to resettle 1,300 Syrian refugees by the end of 2014. In January, 2015, the government committed to settling 10,000 more by 2017, for a total of 11,300.
A total of 2,406 asylum-seeking Syrians have been resettled in Canada as of Sept. 8, 2015, including both government-assisted and privately-sponsored refugees, according to government figures.

Harper said in August that a re-elected Conservative government would bring 10,000 more Middle East refugees to Canada over the next four years.

Harper also said his plan to help Syrians includes Canada’s bombing campaign against ISIS, which both Trudeau nor Mulcair have said they would halt.

More than 12 million people have been displaced and at least 200,000 have been killed since the Syrian civil war began, according to the United Nations.

More than four million of those displaced have registered with the UN as refugees, mostly in Turkey (1.94 million), Lebanon (1.14 million) and Jordan (629,000).

Survey methodology

Nanos Research conducted a RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,000 Canadians between Sept. 12 and Sept. 15, as part of an omnibus survey. The margin of error for a random survey of 1,000 Canadians is ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. This margin varies for subpopulations, such as males versus females.