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Conservative voters less likely to be proud to be Canadian, survey suggests

Leger poll suggests national pride seems to be divided down partisan lines
A young new Canadian holds a flag as she takes part in a citizenship ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Canadians’ pride in their nationality, like most things these days, seems to be divided down partisan lines, a new poll suggests. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canadians’ pride in their nationality, like most things these days, seems to be divided down partisan lines, a new poll suggests.

While a strong majority of the 1,512 respondents to the survey by Leger said they were proud to be Canadian — 81 per cent — the poll suggests the feeling is less common among Conservative supporters than their Liberal counterparts.

Experts say that while the results of the survey may be surprising given Conservatives’ reputation as a patriotic party, it reflects their malcontent with the direction in which Canada is headed.

The poll found 97 per cent of those who listed their voting intentions as Liberal said they were very or somewhat proud to be Canadian, as did 87 per cent of NDP-leaning respondents. That number dipped among Conservative voters, just 76 per cent of whom answered in the affirmative.

An even smaller portion of the 30 respondents who said they vote for the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) said they were proud to be Canadian: just 45 per cent.

“Conservatism is often associated with patriotism, right?” said Daniel Béland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. “In this case, you don’t have that because there is discontent towards the federal government, towards federal policies, and maybe also towards the direction the country is heading.”

Across all respondents, six per cent said they were not at all proud to be Canadian. But among Conservative respondents, the portion was eight per cent. Twelve per cent of those who vote for the separatist Bloc Quebecois and 27 per cent of PPC voters said they were not at all proud to be Canadian.

“Some people, when they think about ‘Are you proud to be Canadian,’ they think about, ‘Are you proud of being under the leadership of Justin Trudeau, are you proud to be under the Liberal leadership,” Béland said.

He said the reasons listed for their pride — or lack thereof — offer a further glimpse into what’s going on.

Conservative voters were most likely to list Canada’s natural beauty and landscape as a reason for their national pride, with 47 per cent of them saying so. And 35 per cent of them said universal health care contributed to their pride.

Of the Liberal respondents, 55 per cent said they were proud because of universal health care, as did 53 per cent of New Democrats.

But there were limits on how proud universal health care made people.

Thirty-eight per cent of all respondents said the state of our health-care system was a reason not to be proud to be Canadian. Forty per cent of Conservative supporters said the same, as did 37 per cent of Liberal and NDP supporters.

That points to a nuance in how Canadians think about national pride, said Howard Ramos, chair of the department of sociology at Western University.

“It’s very important to distinguish that when somebody says that they’re not proud to be Canadian, it doesn’t mean that they’re not patriotic. It might mean that they see the country moving in a direction that is not the direction they believe is right,” Ramos said.

People can be patriotic, can feel loyal and devoted to their country, without feeling proud to be Canadian, he said.

The fact that Conservatives in particular are less likely to be proud reflects the isolation they’ve expressed in recent years, Ramos said.

So too do the responses about political division. Twenty per cent of Conservative voters said such division didn’t make them proud to be Canadian, as did 21 per cent of Liberals and 18 per cent of NDP.

Meanwhile, 46 per cent of Liberals said the rise in political extremism was a reason not to be proud to be Canadian, as did 29 per cent of Conservatives and 36 per cent of New Democrats.

While the number of Conservatives listing that as a reason is lower than that of the left-leaning respondents, Ramos said it’s still a significant chunk and bears noting.

“I think it’s really important for us to take a moment and look at the discourse that we have as a country,” he said. “We have time to do course correction.”

He pointed to the example of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, a Progressive Conservative, reaching out with an olive branch to Toronto’s new mayor-elect, Olivia Chow, who is a former NDP parliamentarian.

Ford initially said that Chow leading Canada’s most populous city would be an “unmitigated disaster.” But when she was elected, he walked that back, which Ramos said was an example of the sort of course correction we should all be engaging in.

“Both of them sat down and looked for common ground,” Ramos said. “This is the kind of moment where we can, as a country, take a step back and look at one of the reasons that people are not feeling proud: the tone and the alienation and the extremism that might be present on social media or some of our public discourse.”

The survey from Leger was conducted online between June 23 and 25, and weighted according to age, gender, mother tongue, region, education and presence of children in the household.

The polling industry’s professional body, the Canadian Research Insights Council, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

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