Most Canadians who know about the Occupy Wall Street movement view it favourably, a new poll has found, reflecting anxiety over job prospects and savings plans amid Canada’s fragile economic recovery.
The Nanos Research poll conducted for The Globe and Mail and La Presse found that 58 per cent of Canadians who are aware of the protests have a favourable or somewhat favourable impression of them.
Many of those who see the Occupy movement in a positive light said it’s because they either support the demonstrations or think protesters are expressing valid concerns.
“I think the subtext is Canadians worrying about a possible second recession, regardless of the fact that Canada has fared relatively better compared with other countries,” said pollster Nik Nanos. “People are worried about their jobs and they’re concerned about their savings.”
Occupy activists have pitched tents in at least eight Canadian cities, building on a protest movement that started in New York’s financial district nearly two months ago. Participants have no official demands, but are advocating for a variety of social justice and economic issues, including nationalizing Canadian banks, closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and increasing the minimum wage. Most say they are frustrated that a small number of people control most of the world’s wealth.
“For many Canadians, they might not necessarily agree with those views, but they think that they are valid. Those are legitimate concerns that are being raised about our democratic and financial system,” Mr. Nanos said.
The most significant demographic that views the Occupy movement favourably is people who are between 18 and 29 years of age, the poll found, which may be reflective of a tough job market for new workers. Nearly 73 per cent of people under 30 said they have a favourable or somewhat favourable impression of the protests.
Although respondents in their 40s view the protests less favourably than other demographics, about 50 per cent of them still expressed a favourable or somewhat favourable impression of the protests. People in their 60s had the most polarized reactions to the protests, with 34 per cent saying their impression is favourable and 32 per cent saying it is unfavourable.
“It could very well be that for young people that are going out into the job market when things are very uncertain, the Occupy Wall Street movement could be a bit of a rallying point and symbol,” Mr. Nanos said.
The poll also found a regional divide in support for the protests, with people in Quebec and British Columbia expressing the most favourable views of the protests, while those in the Prairies had the least favourable responses.
“If you’re in Alberta or Saskatchewan, things look pretty good. The economy is strong, there are lots of jobs, the oil sector is very robust,” Mr. Nanos said. “There just isn’t as much anxiety about the economy and the future compared to other parts of the country.”
Most of those who viewed the Occupy protests unfavourably said it was because they believed it was pointless or lacked leadership.