Populism and anti-immigrant ideology on rise: Simon Fraser University study

Populism and anti-immigrant ideology are on the rise as the majority of Canadians say they feel alienated by the political system, according to a new study released this week by Simon Fraser University (SFU).

The 61-page study, titled State of Democracy & the Appeal of Populism, reveals a majority of Canadians (68 per cent) believe elected officials don’t care what ordinary Canadians think.

More than six-in-ten Canadians (61 per cent) feel that the government ignores their interests in favour of the establishment.

In this atmosphere of dissatisfaction, the majority of Canadians are embracing populism. The SFU survey shows that 80 per cent of respondents prefer politicians who say they stand up for the “common people” over the “elite.”

More than half (53 per cent) said they would lend their support to someone who touched their national pride through Canada-first appeals even if it affected relations with Canada’s allies. A strong majority of Canadians (70 per cent), however, said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported the use of experts for making policy.

The study also reveals that anti-immigrant sentiment is increasing.

One-third of those surveyed said citizens who immigrated to Canada should have less say in the country’s affairs than those born in Canada.

The SFU study says this is “rooted in a feeling that that ‘too much’ is being done to protect minority rights or to support freedom of religion, and that Canadian-born citizens should have more to say in what government does than those born outside the country.”

The survey also showed that many Canadians don’t think voting gives them a say how government runs things with 56 per cent saying yes and 44 per cent saying no.

SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue said they conducted the pan-Canadian national survey of Canadians to establish baseline measures that will be used to track the progress and impact of activities by multiple actors across Canada to strengthen Canadian democracy.

In political science, populism is the idea that society is separated into two groups that are at odds with one another, according to Cas Mudde, author of Populism: A Very Short Introduction.

Mudde says populist parties can be anywhere on the political spectrum but most successful populists today are on the far right.

SFU worked with Advanis to collect data for the survey between July 5 and 15, 2019 among a randomly selected representative sample of 3,500 Canadians. Of these, 2,700 were completed online and 800 via phone using a random digit dialling methodology.

For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of 3,500 would carry a margin of error of +/- 1.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current age, gender, and province/territory Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population (18+) of the Canadian population. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.


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