Will immigration become a salient political issue in Canada?
A new survey reminds us not to underestimate the potential political power of this issue. There may be a clear political majority who are worried about immigration.
I can’t remember the last time immigration featured prominently in national political debates in Canada. This doesn’t mean that all Canadians hold decidedly pro-immigration attitudes. The lack of friction on the issue, in my view, is more likely the result of an elite-consensus on the value of immigration than a reflection of public opinion. We shouldn’t assume that none of the major political parties will never make immigration an issue.
In Quebec, immigration has been an issue that has animated the political debate but we haven’t seen anything similar in other parts of Canada. But we have seen immigration fuel divisive debates in the UK, France, the United States, and other democracies. Public sentiment about immigration and immigrants was a big factor in Brexit and the rise of Trump.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, my interest in the subject has been growing as the impact of the housing and healthcare crises becomes more intense and people start reflecting on what may be causing it or at the very least, making it worse.
At the same time, there’s been a lot of attention paid to the pace of population growth in Canada, with much fanfare over Canada’s population passing the 40 million mark a few weeks ago.
Last month, I asked some polling questions on a national Abacus Data survey on immigration. My intent is to start tracking opinions every six months, because I think this issue has the potential to become more salient and prominent in our political debate - especially in the lead up to the next election.
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The survey, fielded from June 23 to 27, 2023, sampled 1,500 Canadian adults online. The comparable margin of error is +/- 2.6%, 19 times out of 20.
Here’s a summary of what the survey found (full details below for paid subscribers):
11% of Canadians rank “immigration” as a top 3 issue. This is the first time I included in out list of response categories. The rising cost of living remains a top issue to more people (71%), with healthcare (48%) and housing (43%) rounding out the top 3.
61% believe that Canada’s target to welcome 500,000 immigrants next year is too high, including 37% who feel it is “way too high”.
When asked whether the number of immigrants coming to Canada is having a positive or negative impact on several possible areas, 63% feel it is having a negative impact on housing, 49% feel this way about its impact on traffic and congestion, and 49% feel immigration is having a negative impact on healthcare.
Half think immigration is having a positive impact on the availability of workers while 43% think immigration is having a positive impact on economic growth.
Digging Deeper on Public Attitudes towards Immigration
When I did a bit deeper into the data, these insights are particularly noteworthy:
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