Vast majority of Canadians want Senate changed: Nanos

A new CBC/Nanos survey reveals that 9 out of 10 Canadians want to see the Senate reformed or abolished. But Nanos says changing the Senate could be more politically dangerous for Stephen Harper than dealing with the expense scandal.

40% of Canadians want Senate abolished, 48% want it reformed

New poll numbers suggest most Canadians want the Senate reformed or abolished 6:19

The vast majority of Canadians want the Senate to be either abolished or reformed according to a new CBC/Nanos survey.

Senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin were suspended without pay on Tuesday, for making inappropriate expense claims. But for many Canadians that may not be enough to put the Senate scandal to rest.

The number:


The percentage of Canadians surveyed who want to see the Senate abolished or reformed.

Source: CBC/NANOS national random telephone (cell and landlines) survey of 1,000 Canadians, completed Oct. 26-30. Accurate +/-3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The CBC/Nanos survey reveals that 40 per cent of Canadians would like to see the Senate abolished - but a higher number, 48 per cent, would like to see it reformed. Five per cent said leave the upper chamber as it is and 7 per cent were unsure.

Those numbers were relatively unchanged from last June, the last time the Senate scandal dominated the headlines.

At that point in time, 41 per cent of Canadians wanted to see the Senate abolished, 49 per cent wanted reform and six per cent wanted to leave it alone.

The results are based on national random telephone (cell and landlines) surveys of 1,000 Canadian conducted June 8 to 11 and Oct. 26 to 30. The numbers are accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

These numbers reveal that Canadians across the political spectrum want change when it comes to the Senate, and while suspending Senators Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin was a win for the prime minister, it's only a small step forward for Harper on the Senate issue as a whole.

How Harper handles the Senate's future could leave him more politically vulnerable than how he has handled the controversy around Senate expenses, Nanos said on CBC News Network's Power & Politics Wednesday.

Making changes to the Senate is going to be a more difficult task.

Harper's reputation has been damaged in terms of credibility, Nanos said. "Now we need the guy who's just taken a credibility hit to try to fix the, if we can call the Senate a beast, to fix the beast." That, Nanos added, could be a major distraction for the government and the Conservatives heading into the 2015 campaign.

Nanos also warned that the Senate expense scandal is far from over for the Prime Minister. "There will be little revelations that he will have to clarify on," Nanos said. "And it's those little details that kill you, it's not generally how you handle things."

As for the opposition, Nanos said he's watching to see whether the NDP sees a slight bump in its numbers for Tom Mulcair's strong performances in the House of Commons. The Liberals saw a slight drop in the Nanos party tracking numbers this week. The Conservatives dropped slightly last week, but have not seen any further negative fallout so far.

NikNanos digs beneath the numbers with CBC News Network's Power & Politics to get to the political, economic and social forces that shape our lives. Recognized as one of Canada's top research experts, 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).


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