British Columbia

CBC-Angus Reid Institute poll: Canadian millennials hold off on their love of country

According to the results of a national polling partnership between CBC and the Angus Reid Institute, young Canadians aged 18 to 34 show a weaker emotional attachment to Canada than previous generations.

Canadians 18 to 34 less likely to say they are proud of Canada than older Canadians

Increased student debt, unaffordable housing in the major metro regions, paired with decreased job prospects — especially for those without post-secondary education — have created uncertainty among young Canadians. (Brad Barket/Getty Images)

According to the results of a national polling partnership between CBC and the Angus Reid Institute, those aged 18 to 34 have a much cooler relationship to Canada than older Canadians.

Overall, the majority of Canadians polled said they were proud of Canada. Those 65 and over were the most proud, with 65 per cent saying they were very proud of Canada.

However, pride diminished with the age of the respondents. The poll revealed that only 40 per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 34 said they were very proud of Canada.

"It's a stark finding, and one that certainly jumps out and isn't something we've seen before," said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute.

One possible reason for this changing relationship, Kurl said, is that a global technological revolution has made this generation more globally connected in real time than any previous group.

"This is the first generation of watching movies or TV from other parts of the world. It's not just what they're reading from a local newspaper but consuming from the internet, from the pipeline of communication and information that's coming at them, and shaping their views and thoughts."

Trust issues

But this "pipeline of information" has profound consequences for how millennials think and act.

A clue lies in another key finding in the poll.

While the majority of people over 34 said the news media do a good job presenting the facts, 64 per cent of those 18 to 34 said the opposite — that most of the stories you see in the news can't be trusted.

Stuart Poyntz, a professor of communications at Simon Fraser University, said this distrust is part of growing up in a technologically saturated environment.

"It doesn't really matter what the issue, there is often a sense of skepticism, irony and wariness about lining oneself up behind any issue or concern firmly for fear that you're going to be duped … or you're going to look like you're too easy to manipulate." An important skill millennials have to learn in a world saturated with information, he said, is to differentiate between what is true and what is not.

This skepticism and distance extends to Canada itself.

Relationship status: it's complicated

For Erica Isomura, 24, being a proud Canadian is complicated.

Isomura is a fourth-generation Japanese- and Chinese-Canadian who works as a project co-ordinator for a Vancouver-based non-governmental organization, focusing on issues of inclusion and identity.

Many of her ancestors were not always afforded the same rights as other Canadian-born people. Her own connections to her heritage — whether through culture or language — have been diminished because of the desire of past generations to assimilate.

Erica Isomura, a fourth-generation Japanese- and Chinese-Canadian, says her generation is much more open to questioning dominant narratives about Canadian identity. (Kayla Isomura)

"I think within my parents, and I would even say my grandparent's generation, there was a much stronger urge to assimilate to kind of quote-unquote Canadian culture, which I think kind of mirrors Anglo-Saxon white Canadian culture."

Isomura doesn't feel the same.

After finding like-minded communities online and in university, she took an active interest in identity politics.

Many younger Canadians, she said, are skeptical of whole-heartedly embracing the Canadian state in light of its treatment of minorities, LGBT communities and other disadvantaged groups.

Her generation — bolstered by online communities and networks — is willing to reject the idea of one dominant Canadian culture and embrace multiple identities, she added.

It's a feeling that's reflected in the polling data.

For example, older generations are significantly more likely to say that minorities should make an effort to fit into Canadian society.

Millennials are not only less likely to say this, a majority — 53 per cent — feel that cultural diversity should be encouraged.

Everyone's got to make a living

But it's not just issues of identity politics that have millennials feeling wary — financial security is another key issue.

According to the survey, younger generations are more likely to say their attachment to Canada depends upon economic conditions than to say they love Canada for what it stands for.

"The relationship they feel to Canada is a much more practical one. They're much more inclined to say their attachment to Canada comes from a good standard of living," Kurl explained.

It's no surprise that millennials connect a good standard of living to issues of national identity.

Increased student debt, unaffordable housing in the major metro regions, paired with decreased job prospects — especially for those without post-secondary education — have created uncertainty and pessimism among young Canadians.

In such an uncertain financial and political climate, it would be strange for young Canadians to express enthusiastic displays of patriotism.

But uncertainty should not be confused for apathy.

Rather, it's the birth of a new generation's voice, determined to question, examine and fight until home becomes the place they want it to be.

The online survey was conducted in early September from a sample of 3,904 Canadians, and 1,131 people between 18 and 34 did the survey. The results have a 2.5 per cent margin of error 19 times out of 20.

About the Author

Roshini Nair is a writer for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at