Post-election survey reveals further drop in Canadians’ trust in democracy
The percentage of Canadians who say they trust that the current election system is fair has fallen, from 56% in February 2018, to 52% in February 2019, to a low of 48% in the week following the election
TORONTO — New research from marketing agency Proof Inc. gages Canadian’s trust in political party leaders, our democracy and the country’s government institutions.
The Proof Inc. CanTrust Index: 2019 Post-Election Study is based upon an online survey of a sample of 1,000 Canadians 18+ years of age and was conducted Oct. 21 – 25, 2019. Proof says the survey is nationally representative by region, age and gender.
“In a healthy democracy, citizens should feel confident in how the electoral system operates and how it reflects their votes in the outcome,” said Proof Inc. CEO Bruce MacLellan, in a prepared statement. “After this 2019 election, we’re seeing troubling signs of mistrust – especially in Western Canada’s Prairie provinces.”
Trust in Elections
Proof research finds the percentage of Canadians who say they trust that the current election system is fair has fallen — from 56% in February 2018, to 52% in February 2019, to a low of 48% in the week following the election. For residents of the three Prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba), trust in the election system after the 2019 campaign stands at 33%.
The percentage of Canadians who trust the current election system to adequately represent the votes of citizens has fallen from 51% in February 2018, to 47% in February 2019, to a low of 44% in the week following this latest election. For residents of the three Prairie provinces, the level of trust in sits at just 29%.
Trust in Public Institutions: The Media & The Justice System
A decline of trust in the media continues for Canadians, according to Proof. The trust level has fallen – from 51% in February 2018 to 40% in February 2019 to 36% in the week following this latest election. For residents of the three prairie provinces, trust in the news media stands at only 24%. The highest trust in the news media is in Quebec at 45%.
When asked about Canada’s court system and the judges within it, residents of the three Prairie provinces say their trust is now at 40% compared to the national average of 52 percent. Trust in the courts among Prairie residents was also in the low to mid-fifties just two years ago.
The Growing Divide: Splitting Trust Along Gender Lines
“The regional divide is troubling, but a closer look at the data tells us that women are also specifically losing trust in our democratic institutions,” said MacLellan.
The findings show several areas where women trusted less than men, including:
- Seven-point difference in trust in the news media
- 10-point difference in trust in the justice system (courts / judges)
- Four-point difference in trust in the elections system
There was one national party leader whom more women trusted than men: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
“We need to see more women elected to the House of Commons and in other positions of leadership to build trust,” added MacLellan. “We also need more civility in politics, to restore faith and optimism in the democratic system.”
Trust in Leaders: Trudeau Recovers, Scheer Slips, Singh Skyrockets
Canadians’ trust in Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau rose by four points to 39%. Proof says the results underline the resiliency of the prime minister’s reputation in the face of steep challenges such as the ethics commissioner’s report from August and the blackface revelations. Among Liberal supporters, trust in Trudeau was steady at 79% (a one-point drop from early 2019).
Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer, meanwhile, saw a decline of four points in Canadians’ trust to 22%. (Only 20% of Canadian women trust Scheer.) Reflecting early 2019 survey results, Scheer was also found to be the leader with the lowest overall trust amongst his own supporters, ranking at 55% (having stood at 54% earlier in the year) despite having won the popular vote on election day, increasing his party’s ballot count by over 540,000 votes above the 2015 result and boosting caucus’ ranks by an additional 26 seats.
The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh saw the greatest swing: in early 2019 his trust score stood at 18% but following the campaign it had reached 39% – a 21-point rise. Trust amongst his own party supporters has also risen a full 20 points, from 55% in early 2019 to 75% after the campaign.
“The national leaders’ debate and the greater overall attention being paid to politics in the lead-up to election day gave Jagmeet Singh an opportunity to showcase his strengths to the nation – and he performed well,” said MacLellan. “Between his engaging use of social media, and the clear contrast he drove with other leaders on a crowded debate stage, Singh effectively built on a previously middling score. While those skyrocketing trust levels are impressive, the party’s reduced seat count suggests the NDP didn’t have the resources to channel that surge into results at the ballot box.”
Some other insights were found in the data:
- When looking at trust in public institutions along party supporter lines, Conservative supporters were found to have the lowest levels of trust in both the election system (35%) and Parliament (24%).
- With the newly-elected minority Parliament giving rise to questions about cooperation between the Liberals and other parties, the data gives some indications as to the dynamics that could play into that: NDP and Green Party supporters rank their trust in Prime Minister Trudeau at 40% and 32% respectively. Meanwhile, Liberal supporters rank their trust in Jagmeet Singh and Elizabeth May at 51% and 36% respectively.