Nearly half of Canadians say they feel less safe from terrorism than they did two years ago, according to a survey conducted for CBC News.

Two-thirds say it is likely that an attack will occur in Canada within the next five years, including 42 per cent who expect that it will result in mass death and destruction.

However, only nine per cent think terrorism and national security should be the top priority for federal politicians, behind unemployment (20 per cent), the economy(19 per cent) and health care (15 per cent).

"People aren’t hysterical about terrorism. They’re still focused on the things that do affect them directly on a daily basis, which is the economy and jobs and health care," said Craig Worden, executive vice-president of public affairs at Pollara Strategic Insights. "But terrorism is there."


A fighter of the al-Qaeda splinter group ISIS holds a flag and a weapon on a street in Mosul, Iraq on June 23, 2014. (Reuters)

Although two-thirds said they were concerned about a terror attack in Canada, the issue trailed several others in the survey, including:

  • economy (89 per cent) 
  • health care (87 per cent)
  • jobs and unemployment (81 per cent)
  • the value of the dollar (79 per cent)
  • the environment (75 per cent)
  • oil prices (70 per cent)
  • housing prices (68 per cent)

Nearly a third of respondents said the ability of a party and its leader to prepare and respond to a terror attack would be a major factor in the upcoming federal election, with only 15 per cent saying it won’t be a factor at all.

Divided on party support

Twenty-eight per cent said the Conservatives were the best party to deal with terrorism, followed by 21 per cent for the Liberals and 11 per cent for the NDP. However, the largest group, at 38 per cent, said they were unsure.

"The overall message that this sends to me is that when you see a politician raising the spectre of homegrown terrorism," said Worden, "that those claims carry weight and credibility with a sizable proportion of Canadians."

More than half said the federal government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper is on the right track when it comes to managing terrorism and national security.

The government recently introduced anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51, that would give Canada's spy agency broad powers to disrupt alleged plots, allow suspects to be detained without charge for longer and let the government share information more widely.

Critics say the new powers are too broad and the legislation doesn't include adequate safeguards to protect Canadians' privacy.

Concerns about young people

When asked about challenges facing young people in Canada, 71 per cent said they are concerned that Canadian youth could become radicalized or recruited by extremists.

However, those concerns trailed youth unemployment (80 per cent),  abuse of hard drugs (76 per cent), the cost of post-secondary education (74 per cent) and being recruited by organized crime (73 per cent).

Two-thirds said they expected Canadian youth they don’t know will become radicalized or recruited by extremists in the next five years. More than a quarter said they expected a young person whom they know to do so the same in the next five years.

Several high-profile cases of young people apparently becoming radicalized by Islamic extremists have made recent international headlines. Three British teens flew to Turkey in an apparent bid to join ISIS and six young Quebecers left Canada in January to join militants in Syria. 

In another case, the family of a young Canadian woman said she travelled to Syria after becoming radicalized by an ISIS recruiter in Edmonton. 

The poll was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights for CBC. A total of 1,000 adult Canadians participated in the online survey between Feb. 8 and 11.

Since the poll was conducted online, reporting on the margin of error is not applicable. However, as a guideline, a probability sample of this size would yield results accurate to +/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

As part of CBC's Our Canada series, Adrienne Arsenault asks Are We Safe? on The National tonight.


  • An earlier version of this story stated the poll was conducted among English-speaking Canadians. In fact, the poll was conducted among 1,000 adult Canadians.
    Mar 08, 2015 12:55 PM ET