Nearly two Canadians in three, 64.3 percent, think the country is moving in the right direction, up from just over half, 53.6 percent, who thought so a year ago, after the stock market crashed and the country was plunged into the deepest recession since the Second World War.
This is the principal finding of our third annual Nanos — Policy Options Mood of Canada poll.
After plunging precipitously last year by 12.2 points from a 2007 high of 65.8 percent, the “right direction” numbers have returned to nearly the levels in our first Mood of Canada poll taken two years ago (question 1).
The “right direction” is a leading indicator of the public’s mood. A year ago, Canadians were clearly caught up in the anxiety of the global financial meltdown. They were worried about their investments, their savings, their livelihoods and their future.
In each of the three years of the Mood of Canada survey, Nanos Research has been in the field during the first part of November. Each year, we’ve asked the identical questions. This year Nanos interviewed 1,005 Canadians randomly by telephone between November 7 and November 10. The margin of error is 3.1 percent, 19 times out of 20.
The “right direction” scores have virtually returned to 2007 levels, and “wrong direction” response is relatively the same, at 33.2 percent, as it was last year, at 32.1 percent, and much higher than in 2007, when it measured 20.2 percent.
The difference, of course, is that the “not sure” response has fallen sharply to 2.5 percent from 14.2 percent last year and 14.0 percent in 2007.
In other words, nearly all Canadians have an opinion or sense of whether the country is moving in the right or wrong direction. The “not sures” are, within the margin of error, virtually zero.
Regionally, the right direction numbers were stronger in the Prairies at 77.5 percent and weaker in Quebec at 48.8 percent. Conversely, the wrong direction numbers are stronger in Quebec at 41.1 percent, and weaker in the Prairies at 22.5 percent. Nearly twice as many Quebecers think the country is moving in the wrong direction as do Canadians living on the Prairies. To a certain degree, the wrong direction numbers in Quebec may capture the negative sentiment about Canada among pro-sovereignty voters.
We see this underlying pro-sovereignty sentiment in our next question: “on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is not improved and 5 is improved, how would you rate the relationship between the federal government and the provincial governments over the past year?” (question 2).
Once again, the lowest approval numbers were in Quebec, where 39.6 percent registered either a 1 (15.3 percent) or a 2 (24.3 percent) on a five point scale. Only 3 percent of Quebecers said federal-provincial relations had improved over the last year, while another 7.4 percent said they were somewhat improved (a rating of 4).
Only one Quebecer in ten thought relations between the two levels of government had improved over the last year, in spiteof the federal and provincial governments working closely together on infrastructure and economic recovery programs, as well as managing the supply and demand of the H1N1 vaccine, an issue that was highly visible at the very time we were in the field for this poll.
But Quebec was not alone among the regions in registering a high negative response rate to this question, far from it.
In British Columbia, the “not improved” response was the highest in the country at 18.1 percent, while another 17.5 percent were in the second lowest field, and another 33.2 percent were in the middle of the scale.
Altogether, 68.8 percent, two British Columbians in three, thought inter-governmental relations weren’t improving or were indifferent in their response.
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Only one Quebecer in 10 thought relations between the two levels of government had improved over the last year, in spite of the federal and provincial governments working closely together on infrastructure and economic recovery programs, as well as managing the supply and demand of the H1N1 vaccine, a highly visible issue at the very time we were in the field for this poll.
In Ontario, 13.2 percent said relations had definitely not improved, while another 18.4 percent were at the second lowest point on the five point scale. Another 43.8 fell into to the middle point of relative indifference. In the Atlantic and Prairie provinces the “not improved” scores were significantly lower than the rest of the country, perhaps reflecting the traditional role of government programs in the Atlantic region and the enduring prosperity in the Prairie provinces.
When asked to rate “Canada’s reputation around the world over the last year” on the same scale (question 3), the responses were relatively stable compared to last year, though not as positive as in 2007.
Overall, 8.5 percent of Canadians thought our international reputation had improved over the last year, while 31.2 percent thought it had somewhat improved, and another 31.5 percent fell in the middle of the 5-point scale.
Only 9.6 percent of Canadians think the country’s reputation has definitely not improved while another 13.0 fell into the second lowest category.
Once again, the “not improved” numbers were highest in Quebec, again reflecting likely latent sentiment among sovereignists. For example, 16 percent of Quebecers thought the country’s reputation had not improved, while 15.5 percent were in the second lowest point on the scale.
By comparison, only 7.8 percent of Ontarians thought Canada’s reputation had not improved, while another 12.4 percent were in the second lowest category.
Finally, we asked Canadians, on a 5-point scale of “very good” to “very poor,” to “describe the performance of the current federal Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper” (question 4).
This is the Prime Minister’s basic management score, and his score is stable over the past two years. While only 6.8 percent said it was “very good,” another 26.3 percent said it was “somewhat good,” and a further 35.8 percent said it was “average.” In other words, two Canadians in three, 68.9 percent, give the government and PM a passing grade. These numbers are virtually identical to those of a year ago.
Based on “the right direction” and the approval rating for his government, the Mood of Canada at the end of 2009 is generally stable for Stephen Harper and his government.