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Canadians Hold Grim View of the Economy


[Ottawa – June 25, 2017] The outlook on the Canadian economy remains, in a word, awful. Economists and market watchers may be optimistic about our economic performance, but consumers and workers are decidedly underwhelmed, as the numbers remain locked in historical lows. For starters, only 16 per cent of Canadians feel that they have moved ahead over the last year; this is less than half of the number who feel they have fallen behind (38 per cent). Longer-term progress is no better, with just 21 per cent indicating they have moved ahead over the last five years.



When we asked people to cast their views on the future, it is perhaps even worse. As the century opened, we found that medium-term optimism outweighed pessimism by approximately 3-to-1; about 50 per cent believed they would be better off in five years’ time, while just 16 per cent thought they’d do worse. Today, those numbers are locked in near parity. This pervasive gloom is much stronger among those with poor educations and who seem to be feeling the impact of stagnation and decline much more than those with university education.


Nevertheless, there is some positive news in that Canadians’ overall assessment of the economy appears to be improving. While just 42 per cent of Canadians believe that the economy is growing (which doesn’t sound very auspicious since 58 per believe we are in a recession/depression), that figure is up dramatically from three per cent in 2009. Indeed, since 2015, we have seen three successive rises in terms of positive outlook (from 18 per cent to 42 per cent).


We thought it would be interesting to see how Canadians see their economy compared to that of the United States and where they think the two economies are headed over the next two years. The overall message from Canadians is that they see the two countries in quite similar terms, although they’re a little more positive in their assessment of their own economy. Forty per cent of Canadians think that the Canadian economy is in a state of growth, compared to 35 per cent who say the same of the American economy.

When Canadians look two years into the future, however, they don’t see either economy faring better. Just 37 per cent believe the Canadian economy will be growing in two years’ time and more concerning still is that just 31 per cent think that the economy of the United States – our most critical trading partner – will be in a state of growth after two more years of Donald Trump at the helm.


Trump sees abysmal approval rating

Speaking of Donald Trump, we have updated our tracking on Canadians’ approval of the U.S. President. It seems that Mr. Trump has been badly hurt by his first few months in office, with a dismal 18 per cent of Canadians offering a positive appraisal of his performance (down from 30 per cent in November). Even Conservative voters, a majority of whom approved of the performance of then President-elect Donald Trump in November, have largely turned their backs on him. While he does enjoy small pockets of support in Alberta, there is no regional or demographic group anywhere in Canada that gives Mr. Trump a net positive approval rating.


Growing appetite for smaller government

Lastly, we also updated our tracking on whether Canadians would prefer a larger government with higher taxes and more services or a smaller government with lower taxes and fewer services. In a somewhat puzzling and, as yet, unexplained change, we have seen a pretty significant shift up in the appetitive for a smaller government. While public preferences for a larger or smaller government had reached near parity as little as a year ago, the instance of people who feel that smaller government is the way to go has risen from 44 per cent to 58 per cent. We will be following this indicator closely because it could be an important development. It may well be linked to the rise of populism and some of the anti-establishment feelings.



This survey was conducted using High Definition Interactive Voice Response (HD-IVR™) technology, which allows respondents to enter their preferences by punching the keypad on their phone, rather than telling them to an operator. In an effort to reduce the coverage bias of landline only RDD, we created a dual landline/cell phone RDD sampling frame for this research. As a result, we are able to reach those with a landline and cell phone, as well as cell phone only households and landline only households.

The field dates for this survey are June 1-19, 2017. In total, a random sample of 5,658 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 1.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, sex, age, education). All the data have been statistically weighted by age, gender, region, and educational attainment to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to Census data.

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1 comment to Canadians Hold Grim View of the Economy

  • “Growing appetite for smaller government” may also speak to disenchantment of electorate as a result of broken promises by federal government particularly in the area of electoral reform. Better representation might lead to greater appetite for democracy, something PMO does not seem to have appetite for at all.

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