A new public opinion poll suggests Quebecers are less likely than ever before to identify themselves as Canadian.

The survey, conducted for the Association for Canadian Studies, found almost a third of Quebec francophones define themselves solely as Quebecers, while another 39 per cent see themselves as Canadian, but Quebecers first.

Those numbers are up from a previous survey for the non-profit research institute, which found in January 2009 that a total of 54 per cent identified themselves only as Quebecers or as Quebecers first.

Jack Jedwab, executive director of the association, told CTV News Channel that the poll suggests a long-term distancing of relations between Quebec and the rest of Canada.

"Thirty-one per cent of Quebec francophones see themselves as only Quebecers. That says to me there's a not insignificant minority of Quebecers who feel a really strong sense of detachment to Canada," Jedwab said.

Even surges in national pride out of events such as the Vancouver Winter Olympics have only a temporary effect on that distance, he said.

"I still think there's a lot of ambivalence on the part of francophone Quebecers about their connection to Canada," he said. "We shouldn't assume that great events like that are going to have a sustained or long-term effect."

Just under 20 per cent of francophones surveyed by pollster Leger Marketing define themselves equally as Quebecers and Canadians, 7 per cent as Canadian first and only 1 per cent as Canadian only.

The internet survey contacted 1,224 Quebecers during the first week of December. An equivalent telephone survey would be accurate within 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Jedwab said the detachment from Canada is profound and will be difficult to reverse, at least among Quebec francophones. "They see Quebec as their family and their first reference for them in terms of their attachment."

And he said it will have major implications in how Ottawa sells Canada inside Quebec.

"We need to think about the message we convey to Quebecers when it comes to issues of identity," he said. "We have to express our relationship in very pragmatic terms … it's not an affair of the heart."

"We have got to get away from trying to, for example, bomb Quebec with love: talking about how much we love Quebecers … we may feel that way, but the reality is that in order to sell Canada within Quebec we've got to focus on the things that are pragmatic about our relationship."

The poll also suggested a widening gap between francophones and anglophones in Quebec when it comes to national identity. Among English-speaking Quebecers, identification with Canada mirrors francophones' identification with Quebec: 45 per cent define themselves as Canadian first but also as Quebecers, 21 cent as equally Quebecers and Canadians and 18 per cent as Canadians only.

In total, 19 per cent of anglophones define themselves as Quebecers first but also Canadian, and two per cent see themselves as Quebecers only.

Jedwab said the survey also showed attachment to Canada waning among young Quebecers: only 18 per cent of those age 18-24 report strong feelings of attachment to the country.