Canadian attitudes toward President Donald Trump and his controversial approach to international relations appeared to soften slightly in the weeks after U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum exports from north of the border were lifted last spring, a new global survey suggests.
And while overall confidence in Trump’s handling of world affairs remained low in Canada and elsewhere beyond the borders of the United States, the results of the Pew Research Center’s annual Global Attitudes Survey, released Wednesday, point toward an established and growing core of Canadian support for the U.S. leader.
The survey, conducted by Gallup last year between late May and early July, showed a modest increase in the percentage of Canadian respondents with confidence in the president to “do the right thing regarding world affairs”: 28 per cent, up from 25 per cent in 2018, 22 per cent the year before and a scant 14 per cent in 2016.
“Canada is decidedly a ‘blue state’ in the sense of American politics, that the support for the Democratic party in office is higher than it is when the Republican party is in office,” said Elliot Tepper, a political-science professor at Carleton University in Ottawa.
“However, if you go through the data, one of the interesting things is that whereas the numbers are very startling in some cases – 80-20, 70-30, depending on the issue – nevertheless, over the time period that Trump has been in office, support for him has increased within that parameter.”
Canadian respondents to the poll were surveyed shortly after Canada’s year-long, tit-for-tat tariff standoff with the White House – largely a side effect of the protracted and often tense months of negotiations over the North American trade pact – had finally come to an end.
“Perhaps it was a relief from the crisis that was imposed upon us,” Tepper said.
The poll took place well before two of the most earth-shaking developments of the Trump presidency: last month’s impeachment vote in the House of Representatives and the U.S. drone strike last week that killed Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian military leader, putting U.S. military forces in the Middle East on a war footing.
Soleimani’s killing triggered widespread public fury in Iran and prompted Tehran to unleash a chilling barrage of ballistic missiles early Wednesday that struck two Iraqi military bases where U.S. soldiers are stationed. No casualties were reported.
In Canada and elsewhere, the poll also registered an increase in Trump support among respondents from the right side of the political spectrum, said Jacob Poushter, the Pew Research Center’s associate director.
On what Pew calls the “ideological right,” confidence in Trump’s foreign policy among Canadian respondents reached 43 per cent in 2019, compared to 33 per cent the previous year. In some other countries, the spike was more pronounced: 22 points each in Hungary and Spain, and 15 points in Brazil.
“There is a solid core of support within Canada for some of the positions that the American president and the Republican administration is taking,” Tepper said. “That suggests that Canada is not separate from the kinds of forces that did bring Donald Trump to power.”
But perhaps the most striking aspect of the global poll is that while the president remains deeply unpopular around the world, respondents continued to have a positive opinion of the country he leads.
“Across the countries that we surveyed, only 29 per cent have confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing with respect to world affairs, while at the same time 54 per cent among the same people have a favourable view of the U.S.,” Poushter said.
A narrow majority of Canadian respondents expressed a “very” or “somewhat” favourable opinion of the United States – 51 per cent, up from 39 per cent in 2018. Some 47 per cent landed in the “unfavourable” columns last year, down from 56 per cent the year before.
The survey polled 36,963 respondents in 33 countries both by phone and in person between mid-May and October 2019. The Canadian portion consulted just over 1,000 people and carries a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
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