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


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.

"Canada looks relatively satisfied in this survey, in lots of different ways," said Richard Wike, Pew's director of global attitudes research.

"That doesn't mean, of course, there aren't real concerns that people have on many issues in Canada ... but comparatively, when it comes to how they view their overall system, certainly Canadians are more positive than most."

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.

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

The study identifies six nations in particular -- Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand -- where "the desire for reform is relatively low."

That has a lot to do with their feelings about how they believe their respective countries have handled certain top-of-mind issues and whether or not they see a lot of political discord in their midst, Wike said.

"On that question alone, how divided are we politically, Americans look really different from Canadians," he said.

"I think that's part of the reason why you see some of the differences in this report in terms of how people feel about the political status quo and how they feel about the way the political system is working."

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.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2021.



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