Six in Ten (60%) Believe Federal Government Has Made it Too Difficult to Access Government Information
Four in Ten (40%) Believe Feds Have Struck the Right Balance between Restricting Access and Sharing Government Information
Monday, November 21, 2011
Toronto, ON – A majority (60%) Canadians believe the federal government makes it too difficult to access government information, according to a new Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of the Canadian Journalism Foundation. The national Freedom of Information Act allows any Canadian citizen or journalist to request access to federal government information, which is often deemed confidential by government, but even with this law most believe the federal government deliberately restricts information.
Six in ten (60%) believe that ‘the federal government, under the direction of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has made it deliberately and unnecessarily difficult for journalists and citizens to get information held by the government they deem to be confidential’. Men (65%) are more likely than women (54%) to believe the government makes it too difficult to access information, as are those aged 18 to 34 (68%) when compared to those aged 35 to 54 (58%) and 55+ (54%). Quebecers (69%) are most likely to agree, followed by those living in Ontario (59%), Atlantic Canada (58%), British Columbia (57%), Saskatchewan and Manitoba (52%), and only a minority of Albertans (47%).
Conversely, four in ten (40%) more closely believe that ‘the federal government has struck the right balance in restricting some requests from journalists and citizens to get information held by the government’. Women (46%) are more likely to think so than men (35%), as are older (46%) and middle-aged (42%) people compared to younger (32%) adults. A majority (53%) of Albertans believe the government has struck the right balance, while only a minority of those living in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (48%), British Columbia (43%), Atlantic Canada (42%), Ontario (41%), and Quebec (31%) believe so.
Reflecting on whether journalists in Canada have too much, not enough or just about the right amount of freedom to information from the federal government, half (47%) believe journalists have just the right amount of access, while four in ten (40%) believe they don’t have enough freedom. Just one in ten (13%) think that journalists in Canada have too much freedom when it comes to accessing government information.
Seven in ten (71%) ‘agree’ (24% strongly/47% somewhat) that ‘journalists should have access to government information on request even though politicians say it is not in the national interest for them to do so’. Just three in ten (29%) ‘disagree’ (7% strongly/23% somewhat) that they should. Furthermore, three quarters (76%) ‘agree’ (29% strongly/47% somewhat) that ‘journalists should have access through the national Freedom of Information law to most of the details about what the government does, such as what is contained within a cabinet minister’s briefing memos’. Just one quarter (24%) ‘disagree’ (6% strongly/18% somewhat) with this premise.
Canadians are split on whether the ‘government routinely provides journalists with timely access to government files’, with one half (49%) ‘agreeing’ (7% strongly/42% somewhat) that it does, and the other half (51%) ‘disagreeing’ (16% strongly/35% somewhat) that the government routinely provides this sort of access.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of the Canadian Journalism Foundation between November 18 and 21, 2011. For this survey, a national sample of 1,015 adults from Ipsos' Canadian online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100 per cent response rate would have an estimated margin of error of ±3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20 of what the results would have been had the entire population of adults in Canada been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to, coverage error and measurement error.
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