More than 84 per cent of Canadians feel China has a negative influence on world affairs and only 8 per cent believe Ottawa should make closer ties with the country a priority, a new Nanos Research poll shows.
The same survey, commissioned by The Globe and Mail, found more than 46 per cent of Canadians feel the United States has a negative influence on world affairs.
But, nevertheless, more than two-thirds of Canadians surveyed felt Canada should make closer ties with the U.S. a priority.
And more than 68 per cent of Canadians surveyed felt Canada should make stronger relations with Europe a priority.
The lack of enthusiasm for closer ties to China expressed in this poll comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is set to release a new policy on ties to the Indo-Pacific.
While most Canadians were sour on deeper relations with the Chinese government, they expressed higher support for deepening ties with the rest of the Indo-Pacific, which stretches from Japan to India.
Nearly 18 per cent felt that Canada should make the Indo-Pacific a top priority. Nearly 5 per cent ranked it as a No. 1 priority and 12.6 per cent ranked it as a No. 2 priority.
Pollster Nik Nanos said his research suggests that although “the relationship with the U.S. is imperfect, it is still considered the bread and butter for Canada” when it comes to priorities.
“Canadians would rather see the government focus on building a more positive relationship with the U.S. The Indo-Pacific is important, but pales to the importance of the United States,” Mr. Nanos said.
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He said unhappiness toward the U.S. is fuelled by the political dysfunction including the Jan. 6, 2021 attack in Washington, where a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building. “Views on America are likely driven by perception of the U.S. being politically unstable with the midterm elections being a key lightning rod of uncertainty,” Mr. Nanos said.
Although Joe Biden replaced Mr. Trump, it has not led to a major warming of relations between Canada and the U.S., he said. “The fact that Biden has not visited Canada is symbolic of the state of relations.”
As for China, Mr. Nanos said Canadians still harbour memories of Beijing’s jailing of two Canadians as retribution for Ottawa arresting a Huawei executive on a U.S. extradition request. China’s use of what Canada called “hostage diplomacy” was accompanied by human-rights violations on several fronts: a new national security law in Hong Kong that criminalized dissent and jailed journalists and activists, as well as Beijing’s mistreatment of Uyghurs and menacing of Taiwan.
Canada’s relations with China are still strained, and Mr. Nanos said the absence of efforts to improve relations means Canadians’ attitudes haven’t changed. “With no major movement by either China or Canada, relations remain tepid.”
Views of China have not recovered from the controversy of the detention by Canada of the Huawei executive and China’s imprisonment of the two Michaels.
The poll found 50 per cent of respondents said China has a negative influence on world affairs and another 34 per cent felt it had a somewhat negative influence. Five per cent said Beijing has a positive influence and 2 per cent said it had a somewhat positive influence.
More than 3 per cent of Canadians felt deeper relations with China should be Canada’s No. 1 priority, and 4.7 per cent felt it should be the No. 2 priority.
As for the U.S., 15 per cent of Canadians surveyed felt it had a negative influence on world affairs, and another 31 per cent felt it had a somewhat negative influence. Six per cent felt the U.S. had a positive influence, while another 34 per cent said it had a somewhat positive influence.
More than 51 per cent of those surveyed said the U.S. should be Canada’s No. 1 priority for closer ties, while 15.6 per cent said it should be Canada’s No. 2 priority.
More than 25 per cent of respondents said Europe should be the No. 1 priority for closer ties, and 43.6 per cent said it should be the No. 2 priority.
The Nanos poll surveyed 1,084 respondents between Oct. 30 and Nov. 4 and the results are considered accurate to within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.