Post-Election Survey Reveals Further Drop in Canadians’ Trust in our Democracy

October 27, 2019

Proof Strategies’ CanTrust Index: 2019 Post-Election Study underlines Western alienation and growing concerns among women

TORONTO, October 28, 2019 – With the dust settling following a fraught federal election campaign, new survey data shows worrying trends in Canadians’ trust in the electoral system, party leaders and more.

Since 2016, Proof Strategies has studied trust in Canada through an annual survey of Canadian adults. On the heels of the Fall federal election, Proof went back into the field to gather a fresh, updated perspective on Canadians’ trust in party leaders, our democracy and the country’s key government institutions.

“In a healthy democracy, citizens should feel confident in how the electoral system operates and how it reflects their votes in the outcome,” said Proof Strategies CEO Bruce MacLellan. “After this 2019 election, we’re seeing troubling signs of mistrust – especially in Western Canada’s Prairie provinces.”

Trust in Elections

The percentage of Canadians who say they trust that the current election system is fair has fallen – from 56 percent in February 2018, to 52 percent in February 2019, to a low of 48 percent in the week following the election. For residents of the three Prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba), trust in the election system after the 2019 campaign stands at 33 percent.

The percentage of Canadians who trust the current election system to adequately represent the votes of citizens has fallen from 51 percent in February 2018, to 47 percent in February 2019, to a low of 44 percent in the week following this latest election. For residents of the three Prairie provinces, the level of trust in sits at a dismal 29 percent.

Trust in Public Institutions: The Media & The Justice System

A troubling decline of trust in the media continues for Canadians. The trust level has fallen precipitously – from 51 percent in February 2018 to 40 percent in February 2019 to 36 percent in the week following this latest election. For residents of the three prairie provinces, trust in the news media stands at only 24 percent. The highest trust in the news media is in Quebec at 45 percent.

When asked about Canada’s court system and the judges within it, residents of the three Prairie provinces say their trust is now at 40 percent compared to the national average of 52 percent. Notably, trust in the courts among Prairie residents was also in the low to mid-fifties just two years ago.

The Growing Divide: Splitting Trust Along Gender Lines

“The regional divide is troubling, but a closer look at the data tells us that women are also specifically losing trust in our democratic institutions,” said MacLellan.

The findings show several areas where women trusted less than men, including:

  • – Seven-point difference in trust in the news media
  • – 10-point difference in trust in the justice system (courts / judges)
  • – Four-point difference in trust in the elections system

Notably, there was one national party leader whom more women trusted than men: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

“We need to see more women elected to the House of Commons and in other positions of leadership to build trust,” added MacLellan. “We also need more civility in politics, to restore faith and optimism in the democratic system.”

Trust in Leaders: Trudeau Recovers, Scheer Slips, Singh Skyrockets

After a rollercoaster nine months following the SNC-Lavalin scandal and more turbulence on the campaign trail, Canadians’ trust in Liberal leader Justin Trudeau rose by four points to 39 percent. The results underline the resiliency of the Prime Minister’s reputation in the face of steep challenges such as the Ethics Commissioner’s report from August and the blackface revelations. Among Liberal supporters, trust in Trudeau was steady at 79 percent (a one-point drop from early 2019).

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer, meanwhile, saw a decline of four points in Canadians’ trust to 22 percent. (Only 20 percent of Canadian women trust Mr. Scheer.) Reflecting early 2019 survey results, Scheer was also found to be the leader with the lowest overall trust amongst his own supporters, ranking at 55 percent (having stood at 54 percent earlier in the year) despite having won the popular vote on Election Day, increasing his party’s ballot count by over 540,000 votes above the 2015 result and boosting caucus’ ranks by an additional 26 seats.

The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh saw the greatest swing: in early 2019 his trust score stood at 18 percent but following the campaign it had reached 39 percent – a dramatic 21-point rise. Trust amongst his own party supporters has also risen a full 20 points, from 55 percent in early 2019 to 75 percent after the campaign.

“The national leaders’ debate and the greater overall attention being paid to politics in the lead-up to Election Day gave Jagmeet Singh an opportunity to showcase his strengths to the nation – and he performed well,” said MacLellan. “Between his engaging use of social media, and the clear contrast he drove with other leaders on a crowded debate stage, Singh effectively built on a previously middling score. While those skyrocketing trust levels are impressive, the party’s reduced seat count suggests the NDP didn’t have the resources to channel that surge into results at the ballot box.”

Deeper Insight

 Some other insights were found in the data:

  • – When looking at trust in public institutions along party supporter lines, Conservative supporters were found to have the lowest levels of trust in both the election system (35 percent) and Parliament (24 percent).
  • – With the newly-elected minority Parliament giving rise to questions about cooperation between the Liberals and other parties, the data gives some indications as to the dynamics that could play into that: NDP and Green Party supporters rank their trust in Prime Minister Trudeau at 40 percent and 32 percent respectively. Meanwhile, Liberal supporters rank their trust in Jagmeet Singh and Elizabeth May at 51 percent and 36 percent respectively.

About Proof Strategies.

With almost 300 awards for client work and industry leadership, the independently owned Proof family of companies have more than 200 staff members in offices in Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto and Washington, DC. Annual fee income exceeded $35 million in 2019. The firm’s strategic approach is guided by data-driven research, deep subject expertise, smart creative and meticulous measurement. A corporate leader in the age of climate change, Proof Inc. has been carbon neutral since 2008.

About the Proof CanTrust Index

The Proof CanTrust Index is an annual study of trust levels of Canadians and the features that make up Canada. We study and analyze topics, events and population segments unique to Canada – Quebec residents, newcomers to Canada, seniors, political party supporters and where people reside (large city versus small town).

The Proof CanTrust Index: 2019 Post-Election Study is based upon an online survey of a sample of 1,000 Canadians 18+ years of age and was conducted October 21 – 25, 2019. It is nationally representative by region, age and gender. For more information, visit CanTrustIndex.ca.