Justin Trudeau’s marijuana use OK with most Canadians

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According to a new survey from Abacus Data, a majority of Canadians support relaxing Canada’s marijuana laws, a large majority (77%) were aware that Justin Trudeau had admitted to using marjiuana while an MP and a large majority (68%) believed that he did what many other Canadians do, smoke a little marijuana privately with friends and his honesty should be encouraged.

Although his admission has sparked debates across Canada on the topic of marijuana laws, the Abacus Data survey finds his honesty did little to change his public image in the eyes of many Canadians, with 66% saying their opinion remains unchanged while 12% said the admission improved their impression of the Liberal Leader while 15% said their impression got worse.

Views on the Status of Marijuana in Canada

Overall, a majority of Canadians supported either legalizing (30%) or decriminalizing (36%) the use of marijuana, while 17% felt the law should be left as-is, and 11% felt the penalties should be increased.

Although there were minimal differences across age groups, residents of British Columbia were most likely to support the legalization of marijuana (36%), while Albertans and Quebec residents were least likely (20% and 19%, respectively).

Politically, Conservative Party voters were least likely to support legalizing marijuana (22%), while Green Party voters were most likely to support legalization (54%).


Justin Trudeau and Marijuana Use

Justin Trudeau’s recent admission surrounding his recreational use of marijuana has been a high profile story and topic of discussion across the country.  As a result, it is perhaps unsurprising that eight in ten Canadians (77%) were aware of his marijuana use.

Awareness was higher in Quebec (84%) and among those aged 45 and older.

Overall, Canadians’ opinion of Justin Trudeau remained relatively unchanged in the wake of his admission, with 66% of respondents stating that their opinion stayed the same.  Another 12% said their impression of Trudeau improved while 15% said it got worse.

Conservative Party supporters were the most likely to say their impression got worse (30%) while only 5% of Liberal Party supporters said their impression of Trudeau got worse.

Finally, respondents were asked to pick which of two statements best described their feelings towards Justin Trudeau’s recreational use of marijuana:

“He did what many other Canadians do:  smoke a little marijuana privately with friends and his honesty should be encouraged”


“It was wrong of him to break the law he swore to uphold as a member of parliament”

Seven in ten Canadians (68%) felt their views aligned more closely with the first statement: that Trudeau did what many Canadians do and his honesty should be encouraged – a sentiment which seems to have been echoed by many other politicians since Trudeau came forward.

Strong regional differences were also observed across the statement test.  While residents of Quebec (77%), Central Canada (71%), and the Atlantic provinces (73%) were most likely to support Trudeau’s honesty, Conservative-leaning Alberta was evenly divided with 50% believing his honesty should be encouraged while 50% said it was wrong of him to break the law he swore to uphold as an MP.

The ideological divide amongst Tory voters is made even clearer through the results of the statement test.


Bottom Line

Our research indicates that at least in the short-term, Trudeau’s admission that he smoked marijuana while an MP will have little negative impact on his popularity or the popularity of the Liberal Party.

A majority of Canadians support legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, especially those who support the Liberals, NDP, or Green Party.

Most of those who said their impression of the Liberal leader got worse were Conservative Party supporters while large majorities of Liberal, NDP, and Green Party supporters said it had no impact on their views of Trudeau.

Even though Trudeau admitted to smoking marijuana while an MP, most Canadians are willing to give the Liberal leader a pass and believe he only did what many other Canadians do and value his openness in the matter.

While the admission will not likely hurt Trudeau’s reputation, it got him a lot of attention and raised the issue of marijuana policy to the top of the agenda.  Our research finds that most Canadians have heard about the admission demonstrating the breadth of coverage the admission received.


The survey was conducted online with 1,600 respondents in English and French using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a representative panel of Canadians.  The survey was completed from Aug 30 to Sept 4, 2013.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.   The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels.

The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of  1,600 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

The data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, education level, and region.

These questions were posed as part of the Abacus Data monthly Omnibus survey.  

David Coletto is CEO of Abacus Data and leads its Public Affairs research practice. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University.  He’s an avid road cyclist.

Contact David Coletto:

T: 613-232-2806 x. 248

E: david@abacusdata.ca

W: http://www.abacusdata.ca

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