Nik Nanos digs beneath the numbers with CBC New Networks' Power & Politics host Evan Solomon to get to the political, economic and social forces that shape our lives.

This week: Is the middle class in more trouble than politicians think?

The number:

51

The percentage of Canadians who would have difficulty meeting their financial obligations if their paycheque was late.

The source: Nanos Research. Random representative online survey of 1,000 Canadians aged 18 and over, conducted Oct. 13-14, 2012.

To try to get a sense of how squeezed the middle class is feeling right now, Nanos Research looked at a survey done by the American Payroll Association in the U.S. and replicated it here in Canada.

Here are the results.

The American Payroll Association asked 30,600 Americans "How difficult would it be to meet your current financial obligations if your next paycheque were delayed for a week?"

  • Very difficult: 32.25%
  • Somewhat difficult: 35.61%
  • Not very difficult: 18.89%
  • Not at all difficult: 12.99%
  • Don't know: 0.26%

(Source: American Payroll Association, online survey of 30,600 Americans completed September 7, 2012.)

Similarly, Nanos Research asked 1,000 Canadians "If your next paycheque was delayed for a week, would it be difficult, somewhat difficult, somewhat easy or easy to meet your current financial obligations?"

  • Difficult: 21.1%
  • Somewhat difficult: 30.1%
  • Somewhat easy: 22.5%
  • Easy: 18.4%
  • Unsure: 7.9%

Nanos said his survey also revealed a wide gender divide on this issue. Twenty-six per cent of women were likely to be in difficulty if a paycheque didn't come through within a week, compared to 16 per cent of men.

Significant disconnect

The government's messaging on the economy has been that it is strong but fragile. But Nanos says there is a disconnect between what the government is telling Canadians and what Canadians might be feeling.

"They can be touting how great the economy is doing. But for average Canadians, if they're still struggling from paycheque to paycheque, it just doesn't resonate, it makes for a very volatile electorate," he says.

This is an issue the NDP should be able to capitalize on, Nanos says.

"Something like this, historically, is tailor made for the New Democrats, because they've always talked about fair taxes. Taxing the rich more and trying to help what they call 'working families,'" Nanos says.

The wild card here is Liberals and what message they present during their upcoming leadership campaign on tax relief and helping the middle class, he adds.

Recognized as one of Canada's top research experts, Nik Nanos provides numbers-driven counsel to senior executives and major organizations. He leads the analyst team at Nanos, is a Fellow of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association and a Research Associate Professor with SUNY (Buffalo).