February 21, 2019

By Bruce Anderson & David Coletto

Over the last couple of years, there has been a lot of discussion about interference in elections. In our latest survey conducted at the end of January to early February, we explored how Canadians feel about the risks facing Canada.

Here’s what we found:

Most (60%) Canadians think it likely that foreign governments will attempt to influence Canada’s federal election this October. This worry is fairly consistent across the political spectrum. Most (64%) Liberal, NDP (64%), and Conservative (58%) supporters believe it is likely that foreign governments will attempt to influence our election.

Not all countries are seen as equal when it comes to the chances that they might try to influence our political process. People are much more likely to see China, Russia, and the US as posing a threat than Japan, the UK, or India.

Confidence in the defenses against attempts to influence our election is mixed. Two out of three have some confidence that the Government of Canada can prevent foreign governments from interfering. But confidence in social media companies like Facebook is much lower.

Younger Canadians (18 to 29) express more confidence in social media companies to prevent foreign interference (48% at least somewhat confident vs. 34% among those aged 30+). Liberal supporters (44%) are slightly more confident than Conservative (37%) and NDP (37%) voters.

UPSHOT

According to Bruce Anderson: “It’s remarkable how many people arrived at a point where they place the same level of trust in the US as they do in China and Russia when it comes to interfering in our political process.

It’s also striking that the idea of interference has almost become an expected, unwelcome part of life in the digital age.

Finally, the gap in confidence about the defenses offered by government compared to social media companies is a signal that people will likely call for tougher regulation if they judge that private companies are lax in their efforts to protect our democracy from interference.”

According to David Coletto: “Canadians are mindful that foreign governments are likely to try and influence the upcoming federal election but most are at least somewhat confident that the Government of Canada can prevent it from happening. When it comes to social media companies, there’s much less confidence, although younger Canadians express a higher level than those older than them. What is clear is that concern about foreign influence on Canada’s election is a cross-partisan issue and one that worries Liberals, Conservatives, and New Democrats alike.”

Read the Toronto Star’s coverage of the poll here.

METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 2,500 Canadians aged 18 and over from January 30 to February 5, 2019. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.0%, 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.

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