Polling Question of the Month The Impact of Government on Your Life | November

The Impact of Government on Your Life | November

November 2019 Question of the Month

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A recent Environics Institute survey finds that only a minority of Canadians (33%) think that government has a positive impact on the lives of Canadians. More (39%) think the impact is negative. An additional 21% think that the government does not have much impact.

The question is a summary metric, covering, presumably, the impact of local and provincial as well as the national government. As such, it is somewhat more abstract that a government evaluation question. It is also potentially prone to the impact of whatever level of government is doing something salient at the time.

Graph showing that 31% believe government is positive influence

Nevertheless, it s a striking starting point for understanding how Canadians think of the role of government in Canada. Two thing stand out:

First, the 28% of Canadians who either think that the governor has little impact or are not sure, are likely disengaged from politics or view politics as purely a sport that impacts other people. It is hard to imagine these people invested in politics if they do not think it has an impact.

Second, the fact that more people choose negative than positive (even if it is only a small margin), is a good indicator of frustration with the political system. It also can be expected to be a source of skepticism about the ability of government to drive positive benefits to Canadians.

Key Demographic Differences

There are notable differences based on age and education. Older people and those with more education are more likely to say the impact is positive. For example in the table below, those with university education are more positive than negative.

Regionally, Albertans are the most likely to be negative (54%). No surprise, this is the region we most think of as libertarian. It is also a region the most likely to feel that their voice is not heard by the federal government.

Impact of government< High schoolCollegeUniversity
A positive impact23%30%42%
A negative impact44%47%30%
Don’t have much impact on people’s lives26%18%30%
DK/NA7%6%8%

Final Thoughts

Perceptions of the impact of government is a useful high level indicator of the belief in government that is the foundation to regime support. Social, economic, and other government programs are potentially at risk when the population does not feel tangible benefits overall. Of course, since government impacts are so wide-ranging and influenced by political discourse, the indicator may fluctuate.


Fieldwork: Environics Institute Focus Canada 2019 Survey (Telephone, October 7 and 20, 2019 , n = 2008). The Environics Institute for Survey Research bears no responsibility for the analyses or interpretations of the data presented here.

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