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CABC Cross-Border Study: The State of Canada-US Relations

According to a new survey conducted by Abacus Data for the Canadian-American Business Council, the relationship between Canadians and Americans is strong with most of the 1,068 Canadians and the 1,012 Americans surveyed considering Canada and the United States one of their country’s closest allies.

Trust, Economic Partnerships, and Closest Allies

The survey also measured attitudes about the importance of different countries to their country’s economic growth.

“Americans realize the importance of Canada to their economy and Canadians feel the same way about the U.S. economy to their own economy,” said David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data and the principal investigator of the study.

When asked to rank the top three countries that are most important to economic growth in each country, almost all Canadians ranked the United States in their top three countries while almost six in ten Americans ranked Canada in the top three.

“The economic importance of the Canadian-American relationship is clear to people in both countries,” add Coletto.

Rank the top three countries that you think are the most important to
growing Canada’s / the United States’ economy from the following list?*
(Canada: n=1,066; USA: n=1,012; weighted)

   Canada  USA

% Ranked 1st

% Ranked in Top 3

% Ranked 1st

% Ranked in Top 3

Canada / USA















* See full list in the report

China and North America

The study also found that China is a topic of contradiction in public attitudes in Canada and the United States.

“On the one hand, people in Canada and the United States recognize the importance of China to economic growth in both countries,” said Coletto.  “On the other hand, there is profound distrust towards China.”

“This dichotomy between economic importance and distrust is a challenge that governments in both countries must face as they figure out how to engage China and encourage investments on both sides of the Pacific,” added Coletto.

Despite widespread distrust, reaction to the idea of a free trade agreement with China is both countries was not clear with public opinion divided in both countries.  Thirty-eight percent of Canadians and 30% of Americans expressed some support to the idea whereas opposition to a trade deal with China was 35% in Canada and 36% in the U.S..

There has been some discussion about Canada entering into a free trade agreement with China. Would you support or oppose a free trade agreement between Canada and China?
(Canada: n=1,066; USA: n=1,012; weighted)

Foreign Investment in the Natural Resources Sector

Respondents in both were asked whether they would support or oppose individuals or corporations in a set of countries buying natural resource companies in their own country.

The survey found that Canadians are generally more protectionist than Americans when it comes to foreign investment in their natural resource sectors.  Canadians were strongly opposed to Chinese, Indian, or Russian interests purchasing Canadian resource companies.  But opposition was also significant towards Brazilian, German, and even American investment in the sector.

In the United States, attitudes were less intense but there was significant opposition to Chinese or Russian companies investing in American natural resource companies.  Americans, however, were more likely to favour Canadian, Norwegian, or German investment in their natural resource sector.

“Opposition to foreign investment in the Canadian oil sands is not directed towards Chinese investment,” said Coletto.  “A significant number of Canadians are opposed to any foreign investment in Canadian energy and natural resource companies.”

However, a majority of Canadians also agree that foreign investment in Canada’s natural resource sector is needed to help pay for the cost of developing the resource.

“Canadians and Americans are aware that industry needs capital but people are concerned about losing control of the resources,” added Coletto.

The U.S. Presidential Election

The re-election of Barack Obama, while divisive in the United States, was the outcome Canadians overwhelmingly wanted.  The cross-border survey found that 79% of Canadians would have voted for Barack Obama if they had the chance compared to only 9% for Mitt Romney.

“Almost all Canadians wanted Barack Obama to win the election,” said Coletto. “As a result, most think his return to the White House will mean good things for the Canada-U.S. relationship.”

We are going to show you a list of issues between Canada and the United States. Please tell us whether you think that Barack Obama’s election as US President will have a positive effect, a negative effect, or no effect on each item.
(Canada: n=1,066; USA: n=1,012; weighted)

   Canada  USA

Positive effect

Negative effect

No effect

Positive effect

Negative effect

No effect

The relationship between the United States and Canada







Trade between Canada and the United States







Harmonizing regulations in both countries







* See full list in report

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

On issues of trade, the survey found that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is still relatively unknown in both Canada and the United States.  Awareness of the negotiations was less than 40% in Canada and only 25% in the United States.  Nonetheless, the initial reaction by Canadians and Americans to the basic principles of the negotiation was positive with most believing that the TPP was a good or very good idea.

Before today, were you aware of a trade negotiation between Pacific region countries called the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
(Canada: n=1,066; USA: n=1,012; weighted)

 “Despite a positive reaction to the TPP, Canadians and Americans are cynical when it comes to free trade agreement negotiations in general,” said Coletto.  “Most Canadians and Americans don’t believe negotiations are looking out for their interests.”

Cross-Border Descriptions

The survey found that Canadians and Americans view each other differently.  Canadians view Americans more negatively than how Americans view Canadians.

Americans believe Canadians to be friendly, hardworking, and tolerant but many are unsure of how they would describe their neighbours to the north.

“This lack of understanding and awareness is nothing new,” said Coletto. “But it does present a challenge when convincing Americans that a strong relationship with Canada is vital to their interests.”

Canadians on the other hand were less positive about Americans.  Many Canadians consider Americans to be arrogant, violent, and selfish and only 7% of Canadians said that Canadians and Americans are very similar to one another.  Despite this poor assessment of our friends to the south, Canadians do recognize the importance of the United States to Canada’s economy and security.

Download the full report

About the Canadian American Business Council

The Canadian American Business Council is the voice of business in the world’s most prosperous relationship. Established in 1987 in Washington, D.C., the Council is a non-profit, non-partisan, issues-oriented organization dedicated to elevating the private sector perspective on issues that affect our two nations. Our members are key business leaders and stakeholders from both sides of the border. The Council’s activities include high-level briefings on issues of current concern, assistance with practical trade and policy challenges, significant networking opportunities, and informative seminars.

CABC member companies include: Air Canada, Amgen, Bombardier, Campbell Soup Company, Canadian National Railway, Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil Corporation, Ford Motor Company, Lockheed Martin, MTS Allstream, Research In Motion, Shell Oil, Spectra Energy, Target, TD Bank, TransCanada, United Technologies and UPS.

About Abacus Data Inc.

Abacus Data Inc. is a full-service, national public opinion and marketing research firm.

Whether it is telephone or online surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews, or secondary data analysis, the team at Abacus Data conducts public opinion, marketing, or stakeholder research that provides strategic insight to our clients. What sets the team at Abacus Data apart is its fresh perspective on politics, business, and consumer behaviour and a commitment to its clients.

Since its founding in 2010, Abacus Data has consistently demonstrated the quality and accuracy of its research by accurately projecting the 2011 Canadian Federal Election and the 2011 Ontario election.  Abacus Data gets it right for its clients time and time again.