Canadians keen to fight ISIS but lose zeal to admit refugees, surveys suggest
Polling was done before and after deadly Paris attacks and hints at a shift in public opinion
In the days after the Paris attacks, Canadians appeared to become significantly more supportive of the military campaign against ISIS and less inclined to favour admitting Syrian refugees into Canada, newly released surveys suggest.
Vox Pop Labs, an independent group of data scientists, resampled a random subset of 1,681 respondents from their federal election campaign survey called Vote Compass, which was featured on CBCNews.ca. Respondents had been asked questions about Canada's military campaign against ISIS, accommodation for religious minorities and government surveillance during the campaign, between Aug. 30 and Oct. 19.
The same questions were then posed again between Saturday and Monday, after Friday's attacks in the French capital, to test how opinions changed.
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A fourth question about admitting refugees had nothing to do with Vote Compass but was a separate component. Vox Pop Labs was surveying a larger group of Canadians online starting a day before the attacks — and researchers kept the survey open until Nov. 16, taking in the views of 2,497 people.
None of the respondents in either survey were asked whether they knew about Friday night's attacks in Paris.
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"We were already fielding a study the day prior to the attacks, and so we had a baseline of attitudes on refugees and were able to observe the effects of those attacks. Some people responded before the attacks and some after," said Clifton van der Linden, director of Vox Pop Labs..
"These data offer us a glimpse into the Canadian psyche at a time when reaction to the Paris attacks are raw and people are still processing the implications," van der Linden said. He said it has been well documented that people tend to support military campaigns following such attacks.
"It's something to be expected, but it may be temporary."
On the fight against ISIS
The greatest change in public opinion from one survey period to the next seems to centre on the fight against ISIS. It's common to observe a "rally-around-the-flag effect" and increased security concerns after such tragedies as the one in Paris, van der Linden said. On the matter of how involved the Canadian military should be in the fight against ISIS, support among Canadians for an increased role in the combat mission rose from 36 per cent at the end of the election campaign to 49 per cent immediately following the attacks in Paris.
On religious accommodation
On this question, public opinion has remained more or less stable. During the election campaign, 48 per cent of Canadians favoured fewer religious accommodations in Canada, compared with 43 per cent directly following the Paris attacks.
On government surveillance
Here, the Canadians surveyed appear to be a lot more amenable to online monitoring by law enforcement following the Paris attacks. "Interestingly, uncertainty about the necessity of increased surveillance has also increased, even though we are looking at the same set of people surveyed at two different points in time," van der Linden said.
On attitudes toward admitting Syrian refugees
"The level of sympathy Canadians expressed for Syrian refugees remained relatively consistent before and after the Paris attacks, but anxiety about admitting said refugees into Canada rose considerably," the Vox Pop Labs study says.