Toronto, ON – Canadians are evenly split on whether the impact of immigration on Canada has been positive or negative, according to a new Ipsos survey for Global News. One in three (36%) Canadians say the impact of immigration on Canada has been generally positive (9% ‘very’/26% ‘fairly’) – in line with perceptions from 2015 (down 1 point), balanced equally by the one in three (36%) who say it’s been generally negative (14% ‘very’/22% ‘fairly’) – although this is up 4 points since last year. A further one in four (26%) say the impact is neither positive or negative, while 2% just don’t know.
A majority (77%) of Canadians believe that the amount of migrants to Canada has increased in the last five years (50% ‘a lot’/27% ‘a little’) – an increase of 7 points since 2015, but in line with tracking from 2014 (76%), 2013 (78%) and 2011 (78%). About two in ten (19%) feel immigration has stayed the same, while only 3% feel it has decreased (1% ‘a lot’/2% ‘a little’).
Pressure on public services and other concerns
With perceptions of rising immigration come increased concerns about the potential strain on public services. Half (51%) of Canadians agree (22% strongly/29% tend to) that ‘immigration has placed too much pressure on public services in Canada,’ which is a 6-point jump from 2015. Two in ten (19%) disagree (9% strongly/10% tend to), while one in four (25%) neither agree nor disagree and 5% don’t know. Baby Boomers (aged 50-64) are most likely to agree (58%), followed by Canadians in Generation X (57%). Millennials are the least likely to believe immigration is stretching public services (39%). Education also appears to play a role, with lower educated Canadians (52%) significantly more likely to agree than the higher educated (39%). At the regional level, concern about pressure on public services is highest among residents in the Prairies (60%) and Alberta (60%), followed by Ontario (54%), Quebec (49%), BC (41%), and the Atlantic provinces (38%).
The survey reveals that Canadians often have divisive views on immigration, not all of them positive:
- Half (50%) agree (17% strongly/32% tend to) ‘priority should be given to immigrants with higher education and qualifications who can fill shortages among certain professions in Canada’ – up 1 point from 2015. Two in ten (20%) disagree with this statement (8% strongly/12% tend to), one in four (26%) neither agree nor disagree, and 5% don’t know.
- Four in ten (44%) agree (17% strongly/28% tend to) ‘immigrants can make Canada a more interesting place to live’ – down 3 points from 2015. One in four (24%) disagree (13% strongly/12% tend to), a further one in four (27%) neither agree nor disagree, and 4% don’t know.
- Four in ten (44%) agree (23% strongly/21% tend to) ‘immigration is causing Canada to change in ways that I don’t like’ – up 1 point from 2015. Three in ten (30%) disagree (15% strongly/15% tend to), one in four (23%) neither agree nor disagree, and 4% don’t know.
- Four in ten (43%) agree (22% strongly/21% tend to) ‘immigrants in Canada have made it more difficult for Canadian people to get jobs’ – up 4 points since 2015. Three in ten (30%) disagree (14% strongly/15% tend to), while one in four (24%) neither agree nor disagree and 4% don’t know.
- Four in ten (42%) agree (12% strongly/29% tend to) ‘immigration is good for the economy of Canada’ – down 1 point from 2015. One in four (26%) disagree (12% strongly/15% tend to), a further one in four (27%) neither agree nor disagree, and 5% don’t know.
- Four in ten (41%) agree (21% strongly/20% tend to) ‘there are too many immigrants in our country’ – up 2 points since 2015. Three in ten (32%) disagree (16% strongly/16% tend to) with this statement. Three in ten (32%) disagree (16% strongly/16% tend to), one in four (24%) neither agree nor disagree, and 3% don’t know.
Although Canadian views tend to be somewhat more positive than negative, there are significant differences in opinions by demographics and region. Highly educated Canadians, Millennials, Atlantic and BC residents are consistently more positive toward immigration than less educated, Gen X and Baby Boomers, and Prairie and Quebec residents.
- Half (53%) of highly educated Canadians (with a degree) believe that immigration has generally had a positive impact on Canada, compared to only one in three (31%) less educated Canadians. Comparably, Millennials (44%) are more positive than Baby Boomers (33%) and Gen X (30%) about the impact of migration.
- Canadians are divided as to whether immigration will benefit the economy. Half (50%) of Millennials (50%) agree immigration will help the Canadian economy, while only three in ten Gen X’ers (38%) and Baby Boomers (37%) Canadians feel the same. Highly educated Canadians (58%) also have a positive opinion of the migration’s economic impact, while those with lower education (36%) have a more negative perspective.
Broadly positive view of refugees, but minority are more hardline
Canadian perceptions of refugees are somewhat more positive, but remain mixed. Six in ten (60%) do not support closing the borders to refugees entirely (34% disagree very much/27% disagree somewhat). However, Canadians are split on the motivation behind people claiming refugee status in Canada: half (49%) believe (22% very much/27% somewhat) that most foreigners coming into Canada as refugees are actual refugees, but four in ten (38%) agree (16% very much/22% somewhat) that ‘most foreigners who want to get into my country as a refugee really aren’t refugees. They just want to come here for economic reasons, or to take advantage of our welfare services.’
Negative perceptions are fueled by concerns over integration and security. Half (53%) agree (15% very much/39% somewhat) they’re ‘confident that most refugees who come to Canada will successfully integrate into their new society,’ but about one in three (37%) disagree (14% very much/23% somewhat). Moreover, half (51%) of Canadians believe (221% very much/30% somewhat) that ‘there are terrorists pretending to be refugees who will enter the country to cause violence and destruction.’
Canadian men tend to take a more hardline view of refugees than women: they are less likely to feel confident that refugees will integrate into Canadian society (49% vs. 57% of women), more likely to believe there are terrorists pretending to be refugees who will enter Canada to cause violence (55% vs. 48% of women), and more likely to believe that most foreigners seeking refugee status in Canada are doing so for purely economic benefit (43% vs. 33% of women).
Residents of Quebec (45%), Ontario (40%), Prairies (40%), and Alberta (44%) are more likely to support the idea of foreigners being purely economic migrants, while Atlantic (20%) and BC (24%) residents are less likely to share this belief.
Albertans (61%) are the most likely to believe there are terrorists pretending to be refugees who will enter Canada to cause violence and destruction, followed by Quebecers (57%), Prairie residents (56%), Ontarians (51%), residents of the Atlantic provinces (44%) and British Columbians (35%).
Six in ten Baby Boomers (61%) and more than half of Gen X’ers (56%) believe that there are terrorists pretending to be refugees coming to Canada, while Millennials (36%) are significantly less likely to share this belief.
At a global level, many around the world uncomfortable with levels of immigration
These Canadian findings are part of a broader picture from a major new Ipsos survey across 22 countries worldwide, which provides an insight into attitudes to immigration and the refugee crisis. The survey, among online adults aged under 65 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States finds attitudes to immigration throughout the world are often negative – and a significant minority want to close borders to refugees, with many concerned about terrorists disguising themselves as refugees.
Overall attitudes to immigration tend to be negative
Nearly every country believes immigration has risen over the last five years, and on average half believe there is too much immigration in their country. Negative attitudes are consistently high in Turkey, Italy, Russia, Belgium and Hungary.
- Across all of the countries, on average 78% say immigration to their country has increased over the past five years. Those in Turkey, Sweden, Germany, and South Africa are particularly likely to think immigration has increased (nine in ten or more say it has). The biggest rises in perceptions of increased immigration since the question was asked in 2011 have been in Turkey, Sweden, Germany and France.
- On average, more people say immigration has generally had a negative (45%) rather than positive (20%) effect on their country – so even with mixed opinions in Canada, they are still more favourable than most other countries. Six in ten or more in Turkey, Italy, Russia, Hungary, France and Belgium say immigration has had a negative impact. At the other end of the spectrum, 48% in Saudi Arabia and 45% in India say immigration has had a positive impact on their country.
- Half across the 22 countries say there are too many immigrants in their country (49%), and a similar proportion (46%) say immigration is causing their country to change in ways they don’t like. Concern about both measures is especially high in Turkey, Italy, Russia and Belgium. The Japanese are least likely to say there are too many immigrants in their country (only 12%), and the Brazilians are least likely to say they are uncomfortable with how immigration is changing their country (23%).
People are most concerned about the impact of immigration on public services in their country
In most of the countries surveyed, a majority think immigration has placed too much pressure on public services, and people are split on the economic benefits of immigration. Attitudes tend to be more positive in Saudi Arabia, India, Britain, Canada and Australia, but more negative in Turkey, France, Russia, Hungary and Italy.
- On average half (50%) think that immigration has placed too much pressure on public services in their country, while just 18% disagree. Concern is highest in Turkey (72%, up from 45% in 2011), South Africa (62%), the US and France (both 60%). Since 2011 there has also been a notable rise in concern about pressure on public services in Sweden (up by 15 points to 55%).
- When it comes to the economy, on average 44% think immigration has made it more difficult for home nationals to get jobs (25% disagree), and only 28% think it has been good for their country’s economy (while 37% disagree). People in Saudi Arabia, India, Britain, Canada and Australia say immigration has on balance been good for their economy, but the most negative perceptions are again in Turkey, Hungary, Russia, Italy and France.
- Views are also split on whether priority should be given to higher-skilled immigrants who can fill shortages in particular professions – on average 40% agree with this, but this rises to over half in Britain, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Australia.
- On other issues, on average three in ten (29%) say that immigration has made their country a more interesting place to live, but this hides big differences – agreement is highest in Australia, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, Canada, India and the US, but lowest in Russia, Hungary, Japan and Italy.
- Education is a key factor in attitudes to immigration in many of the countries; for example, on average 28% of those who are highly educated say it has a positive impact compared with 16% among those with low/medium education. Those who are more educated are also more likely to think immigration is good for the economy (35% say this compared to 28% on average) and are less likely to say there are too many immigrants in their country (45% compared with 55% for those with less education.)
Four in ten want to close borders to refugees, and six in ten think terrorists are pretending to be refugees
As the refugee crisis continues, the findings also show that a large minority want to close borders entirely – and there are widespread concerns throughout the world about terrorists pretending to be refugees, integration of refugees, and doubts that many seeking refuge are genuine:
- Across all of the countries, four in ten (38%) agree that their country should close its borders to refugees entirely. In most countries the majority want to keep borders open, but majorities are in favour of closing borders in Turkey, India and Hungary, while the biggest increases in favour of closing borders since 2015 have been in Turkey, the US and Sweden.
- On average, six in ten (61%) agree that terrorists are pretending to be refugees, with over seven in ten believing this to be the case in Turkey, Russian, India, Hungary, Germany and the US. The biggest rises since 2011 have been in Russia and Germany
- Majorities in most countries also think that most foreigners coming to their country as refugees are not really refugees, but economic migrants (51% on average, with 70% in Russia thinking most refugees are economic migrants).
And only 41% are confident that refugees coming to their country will successfully integrate into the country (scepticism is especially high in Turkey, France and Belgium, where at least six in ten lack confidence that integration can be achieved).
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between June 24 and July 8, 2016. For this survey, a sample of 1,003 Canadians from Ipsos' 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. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/ - 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. 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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