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Pollster Nik Nanos.

The Globe and Mail

Nik Nanos is The Globe and Mail's pollster and chairman of Nanos Research.

Although some may argue that traditional Canadian values are a myth and that Canadians have become more divided, angry, self-interested and self-focused, the research suggests otherwise and confirms that for at least today Canadians more likely are spectators rather than participants in the angry, ugly politics that are consuming the United States, Britain and Germany.

In a survey commissioned and conducted by Nanos Research, Canadians were asked about two things: what makes them proud to be Canadian and what they think are Canadian values. Contrary to other surveys, no list was provided. Canadians could say or assert anything they wanted.

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Asked an open-ended question about what made them proud to be Canadians, the top unprompted response was our commitment to equality/equity/social justice (25.2 per cent), followed by our reputation as peacekeepers (19.4 per cent), multiculturalism (12.0 per cent) and respect for others (11.3 per cent).

Asked another open-ended question to name the top Canadian values, rights and freedoms topped the list at 15.5 per cent followed by respect for others (11.6 per cent), kindness/compassion (11.4 per cent) and social values (8.7 per cent).

Earlier research pointed in the same direction. The federal government welcomed more than 25,000 Syrian refugees without much fuss, and research by Nanos for The Globe and Mail suggests that a majority of Canadians support or somewhat support the Liberal government's handling of the Syrian refugee crisis, and, in some ways, the experience has been more about a validation of the generosity of spirit of Canadians than concern about welcoming refugees from a war-torn part of the world.

This research casts light on the frame of mind of Canadians today.

First, politicians in Canada who want to practise the politics of division, whether it be by race or religion or the "newness" of Canadians, are in the minority. This style of politics, while it may be effective at activating part of the populace, does not appeal to what Canadians have reported as their better nature – that, as a country, we value respect for others, kindness and social values.

Second, when Canadians see the politics of division in the United States, manifested by the battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the presidential election campaign, there is likely a collective "whew" of relief that Canada isn't gripped by the same sort of xenophobic hyperbole that is undermining the democratic fabric of America. It is akin to watching a car crash – Canadians may be strangely attracted to the crash and at the same time glad they are not involved.

Third, and more dangerously, some may be smugly thinking that Canada is immune from the politics of division. The reality is that the style of politics played in Canada is firmly in the hands of politicians who seek to lead and the media that report on the politicians.

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One of the ironies of the Trump phenomenon is that at the beginning, the media were willing participants in putting a spotlight and giving face time to the controversial Republican nominee. There may be buyer's remorse now, but in the run-up to the Republican national convention, Mr. Trump was a TV-ratings phenomenon propelled by free media coverage.

Ask Canadians, and our default connects to what many consider to be our better nature, but there is nothing to say that, with an uncertain economy and a lack of faith in the future, we could not have our own democratic car crash.

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