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Canadian Public Opinion about the United Nations

Canadians lukewarm towards the UN; Agree the UN should focus on human rights issues in other countries than in Canada.

Ottawa – A new survey from Abacus Data finds that while 47% of Canadians have a very or somewhat favourable impression of the United Nations, most agree that the UN should focus its attention on human rights tragedies in Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia instead of in Canada.

Comparing Canada’s Human Rights Record

When asked whether they think Canada’s human rights record is better, about the same, or worse than most other countries around the world, 63% of respondents said Canada’s record was better compared with 7% who said it was worse.  Another 31% believed it was about the same.

Quebec residents were somewhat more likely to believe that Canada’s record is worse (13%) than other Canadians.

Favourability Rating of the UN

Less than a majority of Canadians have a favourable impression of the United Nations.  Ten percent of respondents said they had a very favourable impression while another 37% said they had a somewhat favourable impression.  One in three were neutral to the UN while 20% said they had either a very or somewhat unfavourable impression of the international organization.

Opinion was fairly consistent across the country.  Liberal party supporters were somewhat more favourable while Conservative Party supporters were somewhat less favourable to the UN.

Statements About the UN

Respondents were shown three statements regarding the UN and asked whether they agreed or disagreed with them.

A majority of Canadians surveyed (68%) either strongly or somewhat agreed that instead of focusing on Canada, the UN should focus on the human rights tragedies happening in Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Sri Lanka.  Fourteen percent disagreed with the statement.

Conservative Party supporters were the most likely to agree with the statement,

Canadians were more split on whether they believe the UN was controlled by undemocratic regimes in China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.  Four in ten respondents (41%) either strongly or somewhat agreed while 24% disagreed.  Thirty-five percent were either unsure or neither agreed nor disagreed.

While Canadians believe that the UN should focus on other countries, a plurality did agree that Canadians are best served by a policy of constructive engagement through the United Nations.  Forty-five percent agreed with the statement while 18% disagreed.

Liberal and NDP supporters were more likely to agree than Conservative Party supporters.

Should Canada Reconsider its Membership?

Finally, respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed that Canada should reconsider its membership in the United States.  Opinion was fairly divided on the question with 28% of Canadians agreeing that Canada should reconsider its members while 45% disagreed.  Another 28% neither agreed nor disagreed.

Support for reconsidering UN membership was highest among Conservative Party supporters (42% agreed) and Quebec residents (35% agreed).

Bottom Line

A majority of Canadians are not yet ready to bid farewell to the UN but there is little enthusiasm for the international organization among most of the population.

Canadian support for the UN is lukewarm (only 10% view it very favourably) and a majority believe it should focus less on Canada and more human rights tragedies in the Middle East.   Most Canadians believe that Canada’s human rights record is better or as good as most other countries and a plurality believe the organization is controlled by undemocratic countries like China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

Public opinion on the United Nations is fluid and soft which means the debate about Canada’s future in the United Nations could have a significant impact on opinion.  There is no doubt that the UN’s blasting of Quebec’s Bill 78 turned some heads and made some question the UN’s usefulness since a large portion of the country is wondering whether membership is in the best interest of Canada.

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From June 20 to 23, 2012, Abacus Data Inc. conducted an online survey among 1,008 randomly selected Canadian adults from an online panel of over 150,000 Canadians.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability-based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.  The margin of error for a survey of 1,008 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

Results of the survey were statistically weighted by gender, age, region, language, and immigration status using census data from Statistics Canada and by past vote using Elections Canada results from the 2011 General Election. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.