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Globalization, Technology, Immigration And Politics In Canada

May 6, 2017

By Bruce Anderson & David Coletto

In recent years, much of the political upheaval that has been seen in democracies including the UK and the US appears to have to do with the impacts of globalization and technology on the economic confidence of people.  We decided to explore how Canadians perceive these topics.  Here’s what we found.

THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY

The large majority believe that technological change has been good for the world (89%) and almost as many (76%) think it has been good for their own economic well-being.  Most people (62%) also believe continued technological change is inevitable, “whether we like it or not”.

The broad consensus that technological change has been good for the world crosses party lines, generations, and self-defined class status.  Where some differences are apparent is when it comes to the personal benefits of technological change: baby boomers, NDP voters, and self-described working/lower class Canadians are less sure of the upside, but majorities in every case are of the view that the impact has been positive for them personally. 

THE ROLE OF GLOBALIZATION

A two-thirds majority (68%) of Canadians believe that globalization has “helped raise the standard of living for many poor people around the world”. At the same time, almost half (43%) feel “globalization has been harmful to the economic well-being of a fair number of people in affluent countries”. On a personal level, one in three (32%) believe that “globalization has been bad for my own economic well-being.”

Majorities among all generations, supporters of all parties and all classes believe globalization has helped the poor around the world, but New Democrats, baby boomers and those who consider themselves working/lower class are less convinced that this has happened.

These differences are more muted when it comes to the number of people who say they have been hurt by the impact of globalization. 

THE FUTURE OF THE ECONOMY

We asked whether people thought a variety of factors were likely to be more helpful or harmful to Canada’s future economic prospects.  We found:

• There is close to anonymity that technological advances and the Internet, in particular, are positive forces for the future of Canada’s economy.

• Three out of four people (73%) think “globalization including trade agreements” will have a positive influence on Canada’s future.

• Opinion is more uncertain and almost evenly split on the impact of immigration and “artificial intelligence and automation.”

There are some important differences by class and partisanship. On artificial intelligence/ automation, the majority of those in the upper/upper middle class say this will be a positive force, while the majority of those who self-describe as working or lower class take the opposite view.  A small majority (55%) of Liberals see it as a positive, while a small majority (55%) of New Democrats see it as a negative.

On immigration, Conservatives see it as a negative, Liberals as a positive, and New Democrats are evenly split.  Class based and age differences are also evident.

On globalization, differences are much more muted. Lots of supporters of all major parties see a positive effect, as do all generations and different self-described classes.

A complex relationship exists between these various points of confidence or apprehension.   We’ll explore these relationships in more detail in an upcoming release about globalism and nationalism, however, some of the highlights that we see are as follows:

• People who are pessimistic about Canada’s economic future are twice as likely to see immigration as a threat, compared to those who are optimistic.

• An 18% segment of the adult population are fearful about the impact of technological advances, artificial intelligence, the Internet, globalization, and immigration.

• A separate 28% segment are worried about artificial intelligence/automation and immigration but don’t show the same level of apprehension about other technological advances, or globalization. 

UPSHOT

According to Bruce Anderson: “Canadian attitudes are different from those which have given rise to nationalist economic politics in the US and elsewhere.  While opinion is somewhat divided on the upside of immigration, Canadians are fairly united when it comes to seeing the value of globalization and trade arrangements with other countries.

The question of technology is becoming more complex or nuanced.  On the whole, Canadians see big upsides to the technological revolution that has transformed world economies. However, there is already a fair bit of anxiety about the dislocation that may occur as a result of artificial intelligence and automation.

The numbers signal some potential for these issues to become class-based and partisan in nature, but so far, the differences are more modest than they appear to be in other countries, where the debate about globalism and nationalism is front and centre, and already highly charged.  Based on these patterns, it’s reasonable to expect that in Canada the policy pressures from the left will be about cushioning impacts of dislocation and creating new employment opportunities, while from the right they will include pressure on immigration.”

According to David Coletto: “Although we find a broad consensus among Canadians for the value of technological advancement and globalization to Canada’s economic future, it doesn’t mean these attitudes are static. It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans in the United States were more likely to favour trade and international engagement. Today, their views have shifted markedly as political leaders such as Donald Trump and other Republicans have railed against globalism and trade.

In Canada, the audience for these arguments is smaller but not politically insignificant. A growing opinion gap between those in different classes or educational groups suggests Canada is not immune to the forces of nationalism and anti-globalism. Managing these attitudes requires both political leadership that refuses to play upon these fears and economic and social policies that produce what some term “inclusive growth”.

In a future release, we will explore in more depth the prevalence of globalist and nationalist attitudes in Canada and profile the size and make up of these two points of view that are shaping the economic and political life of countries across the developed world.”

METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 1,500 Canadians aged 18 and over from April 21 to 24, 2017. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of over 500,000 Canadians.

The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association policy limits statements about margins of sampling error for most online surveys.   The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of 1,500 is +/- 2.6%, 19 times out of 20.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

ABACUS DATA INC.

We offer global research capacity with a strong focus on customer service, attention to detail and value-added insight.  Our team combines the experience of our Chairman Bruce Anderson, one of Canada’s leading research executives for two decades, with the energy, creativity and research expertise of CEO David Coletto, Ph.D.


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