On Fox shows, people who are opposed to the ongoing Canadian protests against vaccination mandates, Covid-19 restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been portrayed as elites out of touch with the views of everyday workers.
Batya Ungar-Sargon, deputy opinion editor of Newsweek, tweeted on Monday: “Don’t let the fact that the mainstream media is hiding this fool you: Canadians support the Freedom Convoy.”
In fact, poll after poll – including the very poll Ungar-Sargon was referencing – has shown that most Canadians oppose the protests and support both vaccination mandates and various restrictions intended to limit the spread of the virus. The polling figures suggest it is Fox’s cheerleading for the protests that is out of touch with the views of a significant majority of the Canadian public.
In addition, one of the recent Canadian polls has been falsely described this week in some pockets of conservative media. While that poll did show that there is considerable Canadian discontent with Trudeau’s handling of the protests, it’s not true that only 16% of Canadians said they want Trudeau back as prime minister, as a Fox contributor claimed, or that only 16% would vote for Trudeau again, as the right-wing Washington Examiner reported.
Here’s an explanation of how the “16 percent” figure is being misused – followed by a look at some of the actual findings of four February polls of Canadian adults.
Poll question about Trudeau has been falsely described
The Washington Examiner reported Sunday that a new poll “showed that only 16% of Canadians would vote again for Trudeau as prime minister.” Fox contributor Tammy Bruce made a similar claim on television on Monday: “Sixteen percent would want him back as the prime minister. So that tells you about where people are and how they’re viewing this.”
But both the Examiner and Bruce were wrong.
The poll they were citing, conducted by Maru Public Opinion, did not even ask people if they would support Trudeau in another election or wanted him back as prime minister.
Rather, the poll tried to gauge how people’s support for Trudeau was being affected by his handling of the protests. It asked respondents this rather confusing question: “Do you think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made you want to vote for him because of how he has dealt with the situation?”
Sixteen percent of poll respondents answered yes, as Ungar-Sargon of Newsweek – the formerly prominent newsmagazine that now, under different ownership, bears little resemblance to its 20th century incarnation – correctly noted in her Monday tweet. But that 16% clearly does not represent the entirety of the support for Trudeau.
A voter who definitely intends to vote for Trudeau’s Liberal Party in the next election could have answered no to this question if they were unhappy that Trudeau hadn’t taken a harder line in trying to end the protests. And a voter who is considering voting Liberal for some other reason, say tax policy or housing policy, could have answered no to the question on the grounds that they don’t plan to cast their vote “because of” anything related to the protests.
In other words, these results are difficult to conclusively interpret. But it’s plain inaccurate to claim the poll showed that only 16% of Canadians want Trudeau back or would vote for Trudeau. (Side note: Canadians vote for a local Member of Parliament, not directly for prime minister, though the party leaders are the central figures in each national campaign.)
With that said, Trudeau critics can fairly cite other recent poll findings that have been poor for the prime minister. For example, 48% of respondents in the same Maru poll said Trudeau has demonstrated he is not up to the job of prime minister, while an Angus Reid Institute poll found that about 65% said Trudeau had made the protest situation worse.
But that doesn’t mean Trudeau is toast in Canada’s multi-party parliamentary system, especially because there is no election imminent. In the federal election in September, Trudeau’s Liberals won the most parliamentary seats, though not a majority, with the support of 32.6% of voters.
Also, February polling clearly shows that discontent with Trudeau’s approach to the protests does not equate to support for the protests.
A look at four Canadian polls
Angus Reid Institute poll: More than two-thirds strongly oppose the protesters’ approach and behavior
In the Angus Reid Institute survey, conducted from February 11 to 13, 69% of respondents said they opposed the protesters themselves – their approach and behavior – versus just 27% who said they were supportive of the protesters.
Sixty-four percent of respondents said they opposed the protesters’ demand to end all pandemic restrictions, versus 33% who said they were supportive.
In addition, 72% said the protesters have made their point and should “go home now,” while 22% said the protesters should “stay in Ottawa and other protest sites until their demands are met.” And while 24% of respondents said the protests have made them less supportive vaccine requirements for international travel and crossing the US border – the protests were sparked in part by a new vaccine requirement for truckers who cross from the US – 44% said the protests had actually made them more supportive of these vaccination requirements, while 32% the protests had no real effect.
The survey was conducted online “among a representative randomized sample of 1,622 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum.”
Leger poll: Nearly two-thirds think the protesters are a selfish minority
In a Leger survey conducted from February 4 to 6 in collaboration with The Canadian Press news agency, 62% of respondents said they opposed the protests’ message of no vaccine mandates and fewer public health measures versus 32% who supported that message.
Sixty-five percent of respondents agreed with the following statement: “The convoy is a small minority of Canadians who are selfishly thinking only about themselves and not the thousands of Canadians who are suffering through delayed surgeries and postponed treatments because of the ongoing pandemic.”
The online survey of 1,546 Canadian adults used a representative sample “selected from LEO’s (Leger Opinion) representative panel.”
Ipsos poll: Strong majority disagrees with the goals of the protests
In a survey conducted by Ipsos from February 8 to 9 on behalf of Global News, 59% of respondents agreed with this statement: “The truck protest is mostly a group of anti-vaxxers and bigots intent on causing mayhem and they should not be allowed to protest.” Forty-one percent disagreed.
When respondents were asked if they agreed that “while I might not say it publicly, I agree with a lot of what the truck protestors are fighting for,” 63% disagreed and 37% agreed.
The poll did find that 46% of respondents agreed that while they may not agree with everything the protesters in the capital of Ottawa have said, “their frustration is legitimate and worthy of our sympathy.” Still, even on this question, 54% said that what these protesters have said and done “is wrong and does not deserve any of our sympathy.”
The online survey was conducted among a sample of 1,000 Canadian adults. The poll used quotas and weighting to ensure that the sample reflected the Canadian population.
Maru Public Opinion poll: Nearly two-thirds favor military support role in ending the protests
In the survey conducted by Maru Public Opinion from February 9 to 10, 56% of respondents said they don’t agree with the protesting truckers in “any way, shape or form” and that everything possible should be done to end the protests. Just 20% of respondents said they “fully” support the protesting truckers, while another 24% said they support the reasons for the protest but “not the way they are going about it.”
Sixty-four percent agreed with the statement that “Canada’s democracy is being threatened by a group of protesters and they must be stopped immediately.” Sixty-four percent also supported using the Canadian military in a support role to tow protesters’ trucks. And as Ungar-Sargon acknowledged in a subsequent tweet on Monday, in which she conceded at least that there isn’t “blanket support” for the protests, 58% said drivers who refuse to follow law enforcement directives to move should “face fines and potential jail terms of up to two years.”
The online survey was conducted among a random selection of 1,523 Canadian adults who are “Maru Voice Canada panelists” and weighted by education, age, gender, and region to match the Canadian population.