Universities, Research & Canadian Public Opinion

Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson

Commissioned by Universities Canada, Abacus undertook a nationwide survey looking at how Canadians feel about the role of universities today and in the future.  The highlights of this study are detailed below.

The large majority (78%) of Canadians express a positive overall feeling towards universities, with only 3% expressing a negative view. This is consistent with our findings from an earlier study 2 years ago.

Two-thirds or more of those interviewed believe that Canada’s universities are friendly (77%), conduct valuable research (77%), are practical (73%), up to date (73%), open-minded (68%), dynamic (67%) and have a great future ahead of them (71%). A significant majority (63%) also consider our universities to be “world class”. Canadians are split on whether universities are adequately funded.

When it comes to the research work of universities, Canadians share a strong and broad consensus that this work is important and merits support by government.

We probed views about 8 different topics of research and found that in every case more than 80% felt it was important that Ottawa support this research. Topics ranged from medical breakthroughs to climate change solutions, to ideas to make cities more livable, and ways to bridge economic and social divides.

Canadians overwhelmingly endorse closer collaboration between Canadian and international researchers, and like the idea of attracting the best researchers from around the world to come to Canada.  Almost everyone wants to ensure Canadian research is funded at levels that allow Canada to compete in the world.

Most support research oriented towards strengthening the economy as well as research that is more curiosity based in nature, and helps nurture a culture of innovation.

Fully 85% believe that Canada has a chance to lead the world in higher education, research, and innovation, and 86% say the government of Canada should spend more on university research because the upside for Canada is tremendous.

Finally, our tracking data shows an increase in confidence in the future of Canada’s economy and also a rise in confidence in the talents of Canada’s younger generations. 


According to Bruce Anderson:

“Canadians see that the global economy is turning more and more based on deepening knowledge and the application of learning in the form of constant innovation.

These results reveal a broad and growing belief that Canada can succeed in this new economy and a conviction that we must compete in it.  They expect government to dedicate the resources to ensure that Canada’s competes at the highest levels.

Finally, if in the past some older Canadians feared a weakening Canadian economy and harboured doubts about the potential and prospects of young Canadians, that mood has shifted. Today, Canadians see our young people as a source of strength, and want to ensure they are given the opportunities to make the impact that they can, for themselves, the country, and the broader world too.”


 Our survey was conducted online with 1,500 Canadians aged 18 and over from July 27 to August 1, 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 +/- 2.5%, 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, Ph.D.

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