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Exploring Canada’s changing public attitudes towards immigration (IMMIGRATEFUL)

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Unlike many other western countries, Canada has experienced an increase in the public’s positive attitudes towards immigration over the past two decades. This study focuses on the results of the Focus Canada survey conducted annually by the Environics Institute since 1976. It compares public attitudes on whether migration is a ‘good thing’ for Canada (overall, and in relation to economics, and to culture and values). We are looking at how socio-demographic factors (including education level, age, gender, employment situation, political orientation, place of residence) influence public attitudes towards migration. We seek to shed light on public opinion trends in Canada relative to other countries.

  1. What are the main factors that explain public attitudes towards immigration in Canada? How have these factors and their impacts on public attitudes toward immigration evolved?
  2. Do these factors have the same impact on public attitudes from a general, cultural and/or economic perspective? For example, does education level explain the support (or lack thereof) for immigration on economic grounds? Does political orientation (ideology or party preference) influence cultural concerns about ‘too much immigration’?
  3. What contribution can the Canadian case study make to the broader literature on public attitudes on migration?

Public attitudes on immigrants have changed significantly over time. A common theme in previous studies has been that less educated, foreign-born and older people tend to hold fewer positive opinions towards immigration relative to the average population. Unlike the opposite trends experienced in most European countries and the U.S., public opinion towards immigration in Canada has grown increasingly positive throughout the last two decades. This positive cultural attitude has been increasing since 1996 and has surpassed negative attitudes since 2000. This project aims to investigate the specific reasons behind these ‘differences’ by tracking the changes of factors over time from a general, cultural and economic perspective.

Using advanced statistical methods (such as multinomial logistic regression), we analyse 1996 to 2020 data from the Environics Institute’s Focus Canada Survey. Specifically, we examine the impact of age, political orientation, gender, education level, immigration background, income level and region (province) on public attitudes towards immigration.

Survey data analysis is ongoing. Results will be available in fall 2021.

December 2021

CERC Migration

immigration, public attitude, public opinion, survey, education, cultural attitudes, economic interests