October 28, 2020

Temperature Check: Canadian Democratic Attitudes in a Pandemic

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Times of emergency put unique strain on democracies. They can erode trust and shatter social cohesion, or they can actually bring citizens together.

To understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has altered Canadians' views toward their democratic system, public institutions, political leaders, and fellow citizens, the Samara Centre for Democracy collaborated with the Consortium on Electoral Democracy (C-Dem). C-Dem is a partnership of academic researchers and civil society groups conducting an ongoing, intensive study of Canadian democracy through public opinion polling. Comparing survey data from spring 2019 and spring 2020 offers unique insight into how the Canadian democratic mindset has changed since the onset of the crisis.

This report forms part of the Samara Centre's Democracy Monitor, an ongoing research series that examines the state of democracy in a state of emergency. Click here to explore the entire series.

Key findings

  1. Canadians’ satisfaction with democracy reached new highs in 2020, with 80% of Canadians reporting being very or fairly satisfied—increasing from 73% the year before.

  2. Canadians gained more trust in government, and in one another—the share of Canadians who think “most people can be trusted” jumped from 37% in 2019 to 45%.

  3. Canadians became somewhat less cynical about political leaders, less nostalgic for the past, and considerably less likely to express populist sentiments—only 34% of Canadians said they trust “ordinary people” over “elites,” down from 47% in 2019.

  4. Despite major positive change in public attitudes, Canadians were no more likely to feel that they have a say in what governments do.

Methodology and data

The 2019 C-Dem Democracy Check-Up was an online national survey that was fielded from May to August 2019 and gathered 5,067 responses. The 2020 C-Dem Democracy Check-Up was an online national survey that was fielded in May 2020 and collected 8,170 responses.

Responses were weighted to ensure they reflect a national representative sample of Canadians. Weighting was done with respect to gender, region, age group, and official language community. “Don’t know” and no answer responses are included in the results reported here.

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