15% of Canadians would rather vote in U.S. election: survey

Fifteen per cent of Canadians would give up their ballot in Canada's next federal election to vote in the U.S. election, a new poll co-sponsored by the CBC has found.

Fifteen per cent of Canadians would give up their ballot in Canada's next federal election to vote in the U.S. election, a new poll co-sponsored by the CBC has found.

The poll, done by the Canadian polling company Environics Research on behalf of the Simons Foundation, the CBC, the Environics Institute, the Globe and Mail and Le Devoir, asked 2,001 Canadians over the age of 15 questions about how they perceive their role, and Canada's role, in the world.

Forty-six per cent of those surveyed in January by telephone said it matters a great deal to Canada who wins the November 2008 U.S. presidential election. Another 35 per cent said it mattered somewhat, while only eight per cent said it doesn't matter at all.

Keith Neuman of Environics told that the fact that nearly one in six Canadians said they would vote in the American election over the Canadian election shows just how important they think the United States is.

"What they're saying is that in the whole scheme of things, the race will have impact on the world and Canada," said Neuman, Environic's group vice-president, public affairs.

"The U.S. is a big global superpower and it carries a lot of weight."

While 34 per cent of those surveyed said they would like to see a Democrat win the next election and five per cent said a Republican, a whopping 56 per cent surveyed said it makes no difference to them whether the next president is a Republican or a Democrat.

"That's notable," Neuman said. "Canadians are not knee-jerk partisans when it comes to American politics."

Neuman noted that this indifferent response may have been partially due to the fact that the survey was done Jan. 9 to Jan. 22, when the race to pick the next Democratic and Republican presidential nominees was only just heating up.

The poll was done on behalf of Canada's World, a citizen's initiative focused on the roles Canada and Canadians play in the world. The principal sponsor was The Simons Foundation, with additional support from the Environics Institute, the CBC and the Globe and Mail.

The survey has a margin of error of 2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

U.S. cited as negative force in the world

While Canadians see the United States as important, when asked what countries stand out as being a negative force in the world, 52 per cent of respondents named the U.S.

The next most common answers were Iran (22 per cent), Iraq (19 per cent) and China (13 per cent).

"It's not necessarily a sign of anti-Americanism, but a concern about the direction the country is going," Neuman said.

He said the overall opinion of the United States was much higher in surveys done in the 1980s, but that opinion started to drop in 2001, hitting an all-time low in 2006.

Neuman said other studies have shown that people's opinions of the U.S. are negative because they are uncomfortable with the country's foreign policy, including the invasion of Iraq. They also cite discomfort with U.S. President George W. Bush, who took office in January 2001.

"I think the fact that Canadians pay so much attention to the U.S. election is a sign that they really care about the United States, a sign that they want it to get back to where it was before," Neuman said.

Canadians pleased with peacekeeping role

When asked what countries stand out as being a positive force in the world, 51 per cent of Canadians picked Canada. The next most popular answer was the United States (six per cent), the United Kingdom (three per cent) and Sweden (three per cent).

"Canadians are positive about our current role in the world," Neuman said. "Although they do think it's possible to go further. They're saying, 'We're doing fine, but we could be doing more.'"

When asked what the most positive contribution Canada has made to the world, most people (26 per cent) said peacekeeping. When asked in what areas they thought Canada had missed an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the world, most (23 per cent) said in the environment.

Environment, not terrorism, a main concern

The environment is the most important issue facing the world today, most people surveyed said (29 per cent). The next biggest issue cited was war (28 per cent).

Neuman said war has topped the list on similar surveys done in years past, but it was interesting that in this survey, only three per cent of people said terrorism is the most important issue.

"Terrorism has really receded as a top-of-mind concern," Neuman said, noting that terrorism first started being noted as a concern in 2002. "The environment has now risen on the list."

Canadians not insular

The survey showed that Canadians have a high level of interest in the world.

"This was much more than we anticipated," Neuman said. "Maybe we're not quite as provincial or insular as we sometimes think we are, or tell ourselves we are."

According to the survey:

  • Almost seven in 10 Canadians have travelled outside Canada and the U.S. as a tourist, while 44 per cent have done so to visit friends and family.
  • 39 per cent have given financial support to address problems in other countries.
  • 67 per cent believe having three million Canadians living abroad is a good thing for Canada.


  • The poll mentioned in this story was conducted on behalf of the Simons Foundation, the CBC, the Environics Institute, the Globe and Mail and Le Devoir. The story did not originally list the sponsors of the poll.
    Feb 05, 2008 9:54 AM ET