Opinions in Canada of the United States have sharply declined during the Trump years, with the share of Canadians saying they hold a favourable view reaching its lowest level since the question was first asked nearly 40 years ago in a long-running polling program.
The proportion of respondents who expressed a somewhat or very favourable opinion of the United States fell to 29 per cent in recent polling conducted for the Focus Canada program. That’s a significant drop from 40 per cent in 2019 and 47 per cent in late 2017 – and part of a continuing decline from 73 per cent in 2010, when Barack Obama was president.
The share of Canadians holding an unfavourable opinion of the United States has risen to 63 per cent in 2020, up from 55 per cent in 2019.
The favourable-sentiment score is the lowest level since polling on this question began in 1982. Similarly, the unfavourable numbers are the worst since then.
In another sign of alienation between the two countries, the number of Canadians who said they consider the United States a friend has declined 29 percentage points compared with 2013, when the opinion-tracking project last asked the question.
The proportion of respondents who said they consider the United States a friend fell to 60 per cent in 2020 from 89 per cent in 2013.
And today, 11 per cent of respondents – one in 10 – said they consider the United States “an enemy," up from just 1 per cent in 2013.
“Canadians are now more likely to see India as a friend of Canada than they are the United States,” Focus Canada said in a statement.
“Trump is taking things down with him,” Andrew Parkin, executive director of the Environics Institute, said of the deterioration in opinions of the United States. The polling also shows about two-thirds of Canadians said they would like Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden to be elected president, compared with 15 per cent who preferred Donald Trump.
Mr. Parkin said Canadians also appear to be responding to the conflict over racial injustice in the United States – epitomized by incidents such as the police killing of George Floyd – and the hapless U.S. response to COVID-19. “Canadians are saying we are not sure we like what is unfolding in American society right now.”
Mr. Trump’s unpopularity with Canadians doesn’t adequately explain results on another question, however.
A shrinking portion of respondents said they think the two countries are becoming more alike, and it’s part of a gradual decline since the question was first asked nearly 20 years ago.
Only 22 per cent of those surveyed said they feel Canada is becoming more like the United States. That’s down from 27 per cent in 2019 and 56 per cent in 2001.
For the first time since the question was added to the survey in 2001, Canadians were more liable to say their country is becoming less like the United States than they were to say it is more closely resembling it, the poll indicates.
Thirty-five per cent of Canadians polled said they feel Canada is becoming less like the United States, up from 9 per cent in 2001.
Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who teaches international affairs at the University of Ottawa, said he sees the worsening of Canadian opinion toward the United States to be mainly a function of attitudes toward Mr. Trump.
He said he believes results showing one in 10 Canadians consider the United States to be the enemy “is more an expression of frustration and alienation than the actual belief the United States represents an enemy.”
On balance, support for free trade with the United States remains more positive than negative. Fifty-one per cent of Canadians polled say the North American free-trade agreement has helped the Canadian economy, a decline from a high of 63 per cent reached in 2017. The deal, renegotiated by Mr. Trump on better terms for the United States, has been renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
The Focus Canada polling this year is a partnership between the Environics Institute, the University of Ottawa Faculty of Social Sciences' IMPACT Project and the Century Initiative.
This survey polled 2,000 Canadians from Sept. 8 to 23. It is considered accurate to within 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Opinions toward China and Russia have also deteriorated.
One in three Canadians now see China as an enemy, compared with 7 per cent in 2013. Similarly, one-third of Canadians see Russia as an enemy, up from 10 per cent in 2013.
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