Canadian Perspectives on Funding Sports

In our latest national public opinion survey (conducted November 11 to 13), we explored public attitudes towards public funding of sports in Canada and interest in the Summer Olympics in Rio.

Here’s what we found:

• Canadians are generally supportive of public funds being used for a variety of sport initiatives but are more inclined to support initiatives that have the greatest reach and encourage sport participation among Canadians.

• 85% believe that spending public money on sport infrastructure for recreational use is a good use (53%) or an acceptable use (32%) of public money. A similar percentage (84%) feel that using public money to promote sport participation among Canadians is a good or acceptable use of public funds.

• There is also broad public support for using public money to fund sports that compete in major international competitions (80% good use/acceptable use), to fund national sports organizations directly that promote, enhance, and govern sports across Canada (78% good use/ acceptable use), and to support the hosting of major sporting events in Canada (75% good use/acceptable use).

• And although there is less enthusiastic support for investing in sport infrastructure for high performance athletics or directly supporting high performance athletes to cover living and travel expenses, there is little resistance to these uses of public money. In both cases, over two thirds of Canadians think it’s either a good use or an acceptable use of public funds.

• And the support we find is broad based crossing demographic, regional, and political lines. Of note, those who voted Liberal in 2015 are somewhat more likely to think using public funds to support sports in Canada is a good use of that money.

• Not surprisingly, those who followed the Rio Olympics closely were more likely to think spending public funds on sports is a good use of the funds.


• Many of us tuned into the Rio Summer Olympics. Four in ten Canadians we surveyed (aged 18 and over) said they followed the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro very closely (13%) or fairly closely (28%) representing about 12 million Canadians aged 18 and over.

• Interest in the Summer Olympics crossed all age, gender, regional and political groups. Those who voted Liberal in 2015 were slightly more likely to pay close attention to the games (50%) but a sizable portion of Conservative and NDP voters also paid close attention.

• Among those who followed the Summer Olympics at least fairly closely, we asked which sport they followed the most. 31% said swimming, followed by athletics (track and field) at 26%, soccer at 9%, diving at 7%, and volleyball at 4%. 5% said they followed them all closely while 9% identified another support.

• When asked why they followed that sport closely, 45% said it was because a Canadian athlete or team had a good chance of winning a medal while 41% said because they are a big fan of the sport.



According to David Coletto:

“Most Canadians believe that public funds should be used to support sports in Canada but are more inclined to support things that they can use – like recreational infrastructure and programs that encourage public participation in sports. They also are more likely to support funding individual sports that compete in major international competitions.

But our survey also indicates that most Canadians also see the value in directly funding and building infrastructure to support high performance athletes who compete in international competitions.

It is also worth mentioning that sport funding is not a politically divisive issue. Unlike some other policy areas we look at, we don’t find large differences of opinion between Liberal, Conservative, or NDP voters. Instead, we find unity in our collective love for sports.

Four in ten or 12 million Canadian adults closely followed the Rio Olympics while another 37% followed it a bit. Audiences were drawn to the summer games to cheer on Canadian athletes competing for medals but also to the sports we love. It’s this passion for sports that gives policy makers license to use public funds to support sports which encourage healthy living and participation while at the same time creating national pride in our athletes and their achievements.”


Our survey was conducted online with 2,200 Canadians aged 18 and over from November 11 to 13, 2016. 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 2,200 is +/- 2.1%, 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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