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Mixed opinions about what to do in the wake of the attack in Ottawa

November 6, 2014

By Bruce Anderson & David Coletto

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Voting Intention

Our latest voting intention data has the Liberals leading with 35% of committed support, followed by the Conservatives (30%) and the NDP (24%). This represents no change for the Conservatives and a slight 3 point rise for the Liberals, from our last wave (October 10th -17th).

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The Tories have a 5-point in BC (CPC 38% vs. LPC 33%). The Liberals lead in Ontario by 8 (LPC 39% vs. CPC 31%) and the NDP has a small 3-point lead in Quebec (NDP 34% vs. LPC 31%).

Direction of the Country – Approval of the Government

Just about half of those surveyed (49%) say the country is headed in the right direction (a rise of 3 points). Approval of the Harper government sits at 36%, substantially below the number who think the country is heading in the right direction, but also up 3 points from our last wave.

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Reactions to Ottawa Attack

Canadian attention was turned to the tragic murders of Canadian soldiers, and the attack on Parliament Hill two weeks ago. In terms of how people first heard of this attack, TV was the first source for 34% of the population, radio was cited by 15%, while 10% said they heard about it directly from another individual, and 4% got a telephone call from someone.

The rapidly growing role of digital communications is evident in that 18% said the Internet was their first source, another 14% said social media, and 5% said an email or text message. In other words, digital media were as important overall as television, and even more important among those under 45. Among that age group, fully 47% said some form of digital media was their first source of learning about the attack.

Canadians generally approved of the way in which a variety of implicated stakeholders responded to the tragic events. The RCMP (75%), House of Commons Security (72%) and the Canadian news media (66%) were all seen as having handled a challenging situation properly. The reaction of the three main political party leaders was met with approval rather than disapproval, led by the Prime Minister. Worth noting is that reaction to the responses of political leaders tended to be less skewed by partisanship than is often the case on other matters. A majority of supporters of the Liberal and NDP parties approved of the response of the Prime Minister, and only a quarter to a third of Conservative supporters disapproved with the way in which Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau responded.

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A series of other probes explored perspectives of Canadians surrounding the attacks. Here’s what we found:

– Opinion is evenly divided between thinking the attacks “were caused by the growing conflict with radical Islamic influences in the Middle East” (51%) and “were more about two deranged individual attackers than a broader conflict.”(49%). Younger people, women and Liberal and NDP voters were more likely than others to feel that the attacks were about deranged individuals, but the differences were of degree rather than evidence of a profound schism.

– Similarly, 47% say the “attacks prove Canada must take a harder line in the fight against terror in the Middle East”, while 53% said “the attacks don’t affect my view of what we should do in the fight against terror in the Middle East.”

– A modest majority (56%) believe that “Canada faces a growing risk of radical Islamist terrorism in Canada” while 44% adopt a more tentative view “It’s not yet clear whether the risk of radical Islamist terrorism in Canada is growing”. On this question, while Conservative Party supporters (68%) were most persuaded that there is a growing risk, many Liberals (53%) and NDP supporters (51%) share that concern.

– A slightly larger, but far from overwhelming majority (60%) agree that “police and security services should be given more powers to monitor the behavior of individuals to help prevent such threats….” while 40% said “I’m not convinced that police should have more powers to monitor individuals”.

– Fewer, (52%) said “I would be willing to have police be more able to monitor my online behaviour if it helped combat acts like these”, while 48% said “I do not want police to have more ability to monitor my online behavior”. Conservative party supporters were more willing than average (64%) but one in three of them took the opposite view on that question.

– One in three (32%) said they feel “more threatened and less secure personally as a result of these events”, while 68% said they felt no more at risk.

Rating TV Coverage of the Attacks

Finally, as events unfolded, many people watched TV news coverage: 28% said they mostly watched CBC/Radio Canada, followed by CTV (22%), Global (14%) and TVA (11% or 42% I n Quebec). 5% watched CNN. Large majorities said they thought the broadcasts they watched did a good job providing coverage, with the strongest positives for the CBC.

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The Upshot

The attack in Ottawa has clearly had an effect on how people feel about the risks the country faces, and what should be done to mitigate them. Overall, Canadians seem to feel that their leaders, police and security services handled matters reasonably well, but are left uncertain and slightly divided about whether the country is more at risk and whether significant new powers to monitor behavior are necessary or desirable.

Based on these numbers the Conservatives can expect only moderate public resistance to some additional security measures. But at the same time, they should not imagine that there is profound conviction about the nature of the attack and its link to global terrorism threats nor much willingness to sacrifice personal privacy in the interests of responding to these attacks.

Methodology

Our survey was conducted online with 1,850 Canadians aged 18 and over from October 30 to November 4, 2014. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of Canadians, recruited and managed by Research Now, one of the world’s leading provider of online research samples.

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 the same size is +/- 2.3%, 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.

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, PhD. For more information, visit our website at http://www.abacusdata.ca/


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