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By David Coletto

Perry Tsergas and I are friends and business partners. We also share an office space in downtown Ottawa. And very often we get fascinated by things happening around us and often get to work together on some really interesting projects.

As two Ottawa-based businesses (Abacus Data & spark*advocacy) with most of our team living in the city, our lives, like many in Ottawa, have been impacted by the demonstrators that have occupied downtown Ottawa for the past week.

Given that our city is the epicentre of the Freedom Convoy demonstrations, we wanted to understand what Ottawa residents were feeling, whether they supported the Freedom Convoy, and how they felt about the way leaders have handled things, including the Ottawa Police Service.

This survey was conducted with a representative sample of 500 Ottawa residents from February 4 to 7, 2022. A comparable random survey of the same size would have a margin of error of + 4.4%, 19 times out of 20.

Here is what we found:

1 IN 5 SAY THEY HAVE BEEN PERSONALLY IMPACTED BY THE CONVOY

About 20% of Ottawa residents say they have been either impacted a lot or quite a bit by the protests. Another 39% say they have been impacted only a little while the same proportion says they have not been impacted at all.

Those living in central Ottawa are, not surprisingly, the most likely to say they have been impacted by the Freedom Convoy.

TWO-THIRDS ARE OPPOSED TO THE CONVOY. 22% SUPPORT IT.

A clear majority of Ottawa residents oppose the Freedom Convoy and their demonstrations in the city. In fact, those who strongly oppose the protest at almost four times as large as those who strongly support it.

Opposition crosses all regions of the city and across different federal party supporters. Of note, those under 45 are almost twice as likely to support the convoy as those over 45.

ALMOST 9 IN 10 THINK THE PROTESTORS HAVE HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE THEIR POINT AND SHOULD  LEAVE TOWN

This view is shared across demographic, regional, and political groups. Even 4 in 10 of those who support the convoy say it’s time for them to leave the city.

MANY FEEL UNHAPPY WITH HOW LEADERS AND THE POLICE HAVE HANDLED THE DEMONSTRATION

When asked to rate how well political leaders and the Ottawa Police Service have handled the convoy, many give negative reviews. However, in most cases, a majority give each leader or organization good or acceptable grades on their performance handing the convoy.

Opinions about the Ottawa Police Service are the most polarized with 30% describing its performance as well while 40% saying they have handled things poorly.

Views of the Prime Minister are the most negative, largely because both supporters and opponents of the convoy feel he has handled it poorly. 45% in Ottawa feel that Premier Doug Ford has handled things poorly as do 38% who feel the same way about Mayor Jim Watson.

Those who support the convoy are far more likely to think the Ottawa Police Service has handled the demonstrations well. Not surprisingly, they are also the most likely to feel the Prime Minister has handled things poorly.

Among the 67% of residents who oppose the convoy, 53% think the Ottawa Police Service has handled things poorly or very poorly.

VIEWS ON DEALING WITH THE OCCUPATION

Most Ottawa residents (64%) agree that “it is possible to peacefully evict the demonstrators from downtown Ottawa by ticketing and towing vehicles and enforcing noise bylaws”. 36% disagree.

Views are pretty consistent across subgroups. Half of those who support the convoy agree with this statement.

At the same time,  less than half think the Ottawa Police Service has done everything it can to deal with the demonstration. 43% agree while 57% disagree. Those who support the convoy are far more likely to think the OPS has done everything it can while only 31% of opponents of the convoy feel that way.

SHOULD TRUDEAU & FORD MEET WITH CONVOY LEADERS?

Almost half of Ottawa residents think the Prime Minister and Premier should meet with the convoy leaders. But among those opposed to the protest, 37% think they should meet while 45% don’t believe they should.

Among federal Liberal supporters, views are split – 42% think the PM and Premier should meet with the convoy leaders while 44% think they shouldn’t. Half of the Conservative voters feel like they should while 1 in 4 think they shouldn’t.

TWO-THIRDS WANT COVID RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE BECAUSE OF CONCERNS ABOUT THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM

Respondents were asked which of two statements comes closest to their views.

a.We can’t let our healthcare system get overwhelmed we need to keep restrictions in place to protect public health.

b. We need to learn to live with COVID and we should remove all mandates and restrictions, even if our healthcare system is overwhelmed

By a 2 to 1 margin, Ottawa residents were more likely to believe COVID restrictions should be kept in place to prevent the healthcare system from getting overwhelmed.

This view was shared by a majority across both agree groups, across all regions of the city, and among Liberal, Conservative, and NDP voters in Ottawa.

30% of those who support the convoy also believe this compared with 80% who oppose the convoy.

Finally, when asked whether they support the demonstrators’ calls to end all public health measures and restrictions related to COVID-19, 34% support it while a clear majority, 66% are opposed.

A majority in all age groups and across the political spectrum oppose an end to all public health measures and restrictions related to COVID-19

According to David Coletto: “These results give us a snapshot of how those living in Ottawa feel about the Freedom Convoy that has occupied the city’s downtown for the past week. It shows that most oppose the convoy, most continue to support public health measures and restrictions, and the vast majority think the protestors have had a chance to voice their opposition to mandates and restrictions and should leave the city.

Dealing with this crisis has been challenging and the community’s reaction to how leaders have handled it have been mixed. Many feel that no one has handled the demonstrations well, including the police, the Mayor, the Premier, and the Prime Minister. However, many also think that those in charge have done as well as can be expected, given the circumstances.

It is telling that the police get the highest grades from those who support the protest while a majority of those opposed to them think the police service has handled things poorly.

For Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Ford, these numbers offer little relief as majorities on both sides think they haven’t handled things well.

I suspect that if the convoy continues, pressure will continue to build on all three levels of government to act, and support for the convoy’s message will get overshadowed by the disruption it is causing to not only people living in Ottawa but Canada’s international reputation.”

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METHODOLOGY

The survey was conducted online with 500 Ottawa residents from February 4 to 7, 2022. A random sample of panelist were invited to complete the survey.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 4.38%, 19 times out of 20.

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

Abacus Data follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements that can be found here:  https://canadianresearchinsightscouncil.ca/standards/

The survey was paid for by Abacus Data Inc.

 

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