The Canadian public may not have reached the same boiling point that’s propelled populist movements in the U.S. and Europe, but we may simply find ourselves behind the curve.
Many of the same problems that have led to a decline in the distrust of government and the desire for change exist here, with public sentiment shifting in a familiar direction.
The latest indictor is the Edelman Trust Barometer, findings released this week by global communications firm Edelman. The survey finds Canadians are increasingly concerned about issues often associated with populist movements such as the Donald Trump phenomenon and shifts to the right in Europe: immigration, globalization and our economic future.
One in two people surveyed agree with the statement that the influx of people from other countries is damaging Canada’s economy and national culture, for instance, while 80 per cent of people think the elites who run institutions are out of touch with regular people. Furthermore, 61 per cent of people do not have confidence that Canada’s current leaders will be able to successfully solve Canada’s challenges, and 48 per cent also agreed that globalization is taking us in the wrong direction, the survey found.
Troublingly, Canadians aren’t immune to the issue of misleading information, alternative facts and outright lies. One in three people surveyed reported they would support politicians who can make their lives better even if they exaggerated the truth; 55 per cent say they don’t listen to people or organizations they disagree with and that they are more than 3.5 times more likely to ignore information that supports a position they don’t believe in.
These results, Edelman reports, show Canada is experiencing the echo chamber effect that is magnifying the crisis in trust.
What’s more, for the first time since Edelman started tracking the general population – this is the 17th year – Canada finds itself among countries who distrust their institutions. Trust in business, media and government is in trouble. Less than half (49 per cent) of Canada’s general population trust key institutions – government, media, business and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
These recent findings reflect a trend not only in Edelman’s annual barometer, but in other reviews of public perception, including the annual corruption index.
In other studies, fewer than 40 per cent of Canadians trust the legal system, for instance. That number drops below 30 for business and union leaders, as well as the media. It’s lower still for government, with trust for politicians typically hovering in the 10 per cent range, pretty much at the bottom of the list.
In the 1960s, 80 per cent of Canadians trusted governments to ‘do the right thing’. These days, the level of support has fallen to somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20 per cent.
Most Canadians distrust government and big business and their cynicism towards politicians is increasing. Trust in government has plummeted from a high of 58 per cent of Canadians in the late 1960s to less than a quarter of us today who’ll state that they trust government always/most of the time.
In fact, it’s surprising some of us still think any of our leaders will in fact look out for anybody other than number-one. Certainly, the evidence says otherwise, indicating the survey numbers, like our trust, will continue to sink.