It may be obvious that things are better in Canada than they were 50 years ago (1967) given the medical and technological changes that have occurred over the past 50 years but it is an interesting question. One Canadians largely answer in the affirmative according to a recently released Pew Research Center Poll.

In the late 60s the Baby Boom had come to an end, there was the optimism of the future spurned on by the U.S. landing on the moon, but there was also the on-going Vietnam war. When we look back, it is worth considering the things that might be the comparison. At the same time, most of the population was not around 50 years ago so the look back is filtered and influenced by how we now see history and how our parents/ teachers told us about the past.

Canadians lean to the positive — 55% think life is better now compared with 24% who think it is worse. Canada is the 11th most positive of the 38 countries surveyed. This is dramatically better than what Americans think where only 31% think life is better. Striking, of course, because of the shared history, close economic ties, and overall cultural similiarities.

Life today versus 50 years ago in Canada

It is hard not to think that the sense of emotional loss that would come with seeing the past as better than the present [like wishing one was back in high school], is both a function or and what perpetuates the political divisions and institutional constraints in the U.S.

More importantly for Canadians, does our sense of progress diminish our need to turn to populism and reactionary political forces? Or, did Trudeau’s sunny days help Canadians think more positively about the present?


The Pew Research Center bears no responsibility for the analysis and interpretation presented here.

Canadian Survey Methodology:

Random Digit Dial (RDD) telephone survey stratified by geographic area and of cell phone users (50% of sample). Individuals within landline households are selected using the youngest person method. Interviews in the cell sample are conducted with the person who answered the phone, if age 18 or older. For both landline and cell samples, at least 8 phone calls are made to complete the interview with the selected respondent. Field dates: Feb. 16 – Mar. 3, 2017; n = 1022