By Bruce Anderson & David Coletto
In our latest national survey, we asked a few questions about the Canada-China relationship.
Here’s what we found:
CHINA TRYING TO BULLY CANADA, AND SHOULD STAND DOWN
The relationship between Canada and China has been going through a challenging period and while many Canadians may not be following all the details of this issue, most people have a sense about which country is more to blame for the current difficulties.
When asked if the problems stemmed from “China trying to bully Canada” or “Canada has done things to offend China”, 3 out of 4 people said China was to blame. This result was pretty consistent across party lines, regions, genders, and generations.
When asked what they would prefer to see happen, only 18% said “Canada should apologize and take the actions that China is asking for” while 82% said “China should back down and stop taking actions that harm Canada”. Conservatives (82%) Liberals (81%) and New Democrats (83%) were again very aligned on this question.
CANADIANS PREFER A DIPLOMATIC EFFORT TO A WAR OF WORDS
When asked what they would prefer to see as the approach of the Canadian government, 37% said “Canada should loudly protest China’s behaviour and demand better treatment” while 63% said “Canada should work diligently and behind the scenes to try to solve the situation.” Conservatives (41%) were a little more likely than average to want a more voluble protest, but the majority of all parties’ supporters favoured a lower profile, diplomatic approach.
BUT PARTISANSHIP MOSTLY DRIVES OPINION ON WHETHER THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT IS DOING ENOUGH TO HANDLE THE SITUATION
When asked to assess the approach the Canadian government is taking on China, 54% say they “the Government of Canada is probably doing what it should be doing to handle the situation as well as can be done” while 46% say “The Government of Canada isn’t doing enough to stand up to China.” Liberal, NDP, and Green supporters are more likely to think the government is doing what it should to handle the situation while most Conservatives feel the government isn’t doing enough to stand up to China.
According to Bruce Anderson: “Canadians have generally been in favour of broadening trade relations with China in recent years, but their reactions to recent events is a reminder that the level of trust in China as a partner has been somewhat qualified. The clear instinct on the part of Canadian voters is to assume that China is trying to throw its weight around in the relationship. This causes voters to adopt a pro-Canada stance.
It’s also fair to imagine that most people haven’t heard a compelling counter argument be as to why Canada shouldn’t have made the arrest that we did, pursuant to an agreement with the US. Finally, partisanship seems to have only a modest impact on how people see the problem or their preferred approach to a solution – most want to put more trust in a quieter diplomatic approach than a more belligerent style.
Whether Canada “can do more” produces a split opinion, which in part probably reflects that people aren’t sure that more can’t be done, and in part a reflection of Conservative voter antagonism towards the Trudeau government”
According to David Coletto: “The Canada-China relationship is certainly complicated but most Canadians, regardless of political stripe or demographics, have a shared impression on how its developing and the best approach to dealing with it.
Whether this becomes a political issue that impacts voting behaviour remains to be seen. While Canadians are split on the whether the government has done enough to stand up to China or not, many Canadians understand that China is likely trying to bully Canada and loudly protesting will have little impact on the Chinese.”
Our survey was conducted online with 1,500 Canadians aged 18 and over from July 12 to July 17, 2019. A random sample of panellists 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 +/- 2.6%, 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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