What do Canadians think about immigration and refugees today, and how has this changed over the past year?
In fact, surprisingly, Canadians have become more open, not less so. Over the past year, the Canadian public has become more accepting and supportive of immigrants and refugees, continuing a trend dating back several years but to levels not recorded in more than four decades of Focus Canada surveys. Strong and increasing majorities of Canadians express comfort with current immigration levels, see immigrants as good for the Canadian economy and not threats to other people’s jobs, and believe that immigration is essential to building the country’s population. And for the first time in the Focus research dating back four decades, a plurality of Canadians rejects the ideas that too many refugees are not legitimate, and that too many immigrants are not adopting Canadian values. By a five-to-one margin, the public believes immigration makes Canada a better country, not a worse one, and they are most likely to say this is because it makes for a more diverse multicultural place to live.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of this latest trend is that it has taken place all across the country and among all demographic segments of the population; in some cases especially so where opinions about immigration have been the least positive, including Albertans and Canadians with lower levels of education and income, as well as supporters of the federal Conservative Party. While divisions remain along regional, generational and political lines, in some cases these have diminished over the past year. This suggests that whatever fault lines may continue to divide Canadians, immigration is now less likely than before to be among them.
What lies behind this growing public support for immigration and refugees is not immediately apparent from the survey data itself. It may be in part a response to the pandemic (e.g., a “we are all in this together” reaction). It could be a reaction to the alarming political instability south of the border in the USA (“we are not like them”). And it may reflect a solidifying public consensus that Canada’s economy (and one’s own livelihood) depends on making space for newcomers, especially this year when the economy needs all the help it can get.
For more information, contact Keith Neuman
Read the second report from Focus Canada 2020, on Changing Opinions about the United States, China and Russia, here.