Gas prices are driving Canadians crazy

A new poll from Ottawa-based Abacus Data shows that rising gas prices are affecting most Canadian family budgets and many Canadians are planning to make changes to their spending behaviour.  Two thirds of respondents said they are angry and blame oil and gas companies for the increases.  Almost eight in ten (79%) want governments to step in and do something.

Over seven in ten Canadians surveyed (72%) said that rising gas prices have forced them to change their spending plans with 39% saying that price increases have “really hurt their budget”.   Only 21% of respondents said that they have not been affected by the gas prices increases.

Of those who cite budget pains from the rise in gas prices:

  • 46% will have to reduce general spending;
  • 41% plan to cut back on entertainment spending;
  • 31% will find alternatives to driving: and,
  • 26% will change their summer or vacation plans.

“The impact of rising gas prices goes beyond the price of fuel, food, and transportation,” said David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data. “Canadians are changing their plans and spending priorities away from entertainment and vacations to help stem the rising cost of gas.”

When asked why they felt gas prices are rising, almost all respondents said it was because of “greedy” oil and gas companies, while 47% cited the rising demand for oil.  Another 46% noted the conflict in Libya as a cause while only 25% believed rising gas prices was related to improving economic conditions.

More specifically, respondents were far more likely to blame the oil and gas companies for the rise in prices (68%) than the federal government (16%), Middle Eastern countries (15%), or their provincial government (4%).

“Despite all the talk about China and India, the conflict in the middle east, and the expansion of the oil sands, consumers overwhelmingly blame the oil and gas companies for the rising gas prices,” said Coletto.  “This explains the broad support for federal government regulation of gas prices.”

The Abacus Data survey found strong support for the federal government to step in and regulate gas prices.  Almost eight in ten Canadians (79%) either strongly (52%) or somewhat supported (27%) the federal government stepping in to regulate and lower the price of gas.  Only six percent of Canadians were opposed to the idea.

Support was consistent across Canada, among all age groups, and even among various federal party supporters.  Even eight in ten Conservative Party supporters said they would support government regulation of gas prices.

Although this is not the first time that gas prices have spiked, Canadians are not yet resigned to the reality of $1.40 per litre gas.  When asked which statement, if either, came closet to their view, two thirds of respondents (66%) said they were “pissed” because oil and gas companies are greedy and making a killing off consumers.  Only 13% were resigned to the fact that gas prices will rise because it is a non-renewable resource.

“Canadians are upset.  The price of gas, food, real estate, and pretty much everything else is rising and they feel, to be blunt, like they are being hosed,” said Coletto.  “If prices continue to rise, anger will most certainly grow and the impact will extend beyond the pump.”

Download the full report.

Between April 28 and 29, 2011, Abacus Data Inc. conducted an online survey among 1,007 randomly selected Canadian adults from an online panel of over 400,000 Canadians. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is comparable to +/- 3.2%, 19 times out of 20.

Results of the survey were statistically weighted by gender, age, region, immigrant status, and education using census data from Statistics Canada and by past vote using Elections Canada results from the 2008 General Election. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.