While world leaders gear up for the Copenhagen climate change conference, Canadians are choosing the economy over the environment as the issue that concerns them most, a new EKOS poll released exclusively to the CBC suggests.

In the poll, which was based on questions and topics submitted by viewers of the CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, Canadians were asked which of the following should be the most important issue for the next federal election:

  • Social issues like health and education.
  • Issues related to the economy, like economic growth and employment.
  • Fiscal issues like taxes and debt.
  • Climate change and the environment.
  • None of the above.

About 31 per cent of those polled said the economy topped their list of issues, followed by 27 per cent choosing social issues. Climate change and the environment came in third (18.4 per cent), slightly ahead of fiscal issues (17.8 per cent).

Conservative Party supporters (44 per cent) were more likely than supporters of other parties to put the economy at the top of the list, as were men and those aged 45 to 64.

Those who support the NDP (34 per cent) and the Bloc Québécois (34 per cent) were more likely to say social issues were most important, as were women (36 per cent).

Mixed opinions

Canadians polled were mixed on whether they thought the federal government’s record on the environment had an impact on Canada’s international reputation.

Forty per cent felt it has had a negative impact, while an almost equal proportion (37 per cent) said it had no impact, with older people more likely to say Canada's policies have hurt the country's reputation.

Around 44 per cent of those polled aged 65 and over said the government's environmental record had a negative impact, compared with 43 per cent of those in the 25-44 age group, who were mostly like to say it had no effect.

While the environment ranked much lower than the economy and social issues, nearly a third polled said the government's record on the environment is very important on their voting decisions. About 39 per cent said it was somewhat important.

Supporters of the Liberal (42 per cent), Bloc (41 per cent) and the Green (45 per cent) parties and university educated (36 per cent) were more likely than others to say the issue is very important in their voting decisions.

The survey of 2,412 people was conducted by telephone between Nov. 25 and Dec. 1 and is deemed to have a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Both landline and cellphone users were included.