New survey shows Canadians’ appetite for climate action on the rise

Posted on Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The University of Ottawa's Positive Energy program released new survey results tracking  Canadians’ attitudes about climate change action in the context of COVID-19. These results provide a timely snapshot of Canadian perceptions of climate action just prior to vaccine rollout and growing case numbers in the second wave. The survey was conducted by Positive Energy’s official pollster, Nanos Research.

Canadians were asked on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 means absolutely the worst time and 10 absolutely the best time, how good a time it is for Canada to be ambitious in addressing climate change even if there are costs to the economy. This tracking question was first asked in June 2020. The results suggest that Canadians’ appetite for climate action is on the rise:   

  • 52% of respondents answered 7 or higher (7% increase from June 2020) and 24% answered 10 (7% increase)
  • 27% of respondents answered 3 or lower (2% decrease) and 15% answered 0 (2% decrease)
  • 18% answered 4 to 6 (5% decrease)

The survey reveals how attitudes vary by region, age, and gender, political party preference, and political ideology. People in the Prairies, men, and Canadians aged 35 to 54 were less likely to say this is a good time for climate ambition. Québécois, Atlantic Canadians and women are likelier to say it is a good time. Opinions are polarized along partisan and ideological lines, with Conservative and right-leaning  Canadians far more opposed, and NDP, Liberal and left-leaning Canadians far more supportive.

The survey also offers a snapshot of Canadian attitudes on several other energy-related topics, including the present and future importance of oil and gas to the Canadian economy, perceived trade-offs between the environment and the economy, and trusted news sources for energy and climate issues.

Canadians say the oil and gas sector is more important to Canada’s current economy (mean 7.3 out of 10) than its future economy (mean of 5.8 out of 10), and they are more likely to agree that protecting the environment should be given priority, even if it causes slower economic growth or some job loss (54%). Opinions were likewise polarized along partisan and ideological lines for the latter two questions.

The full survey results are available on the Positive Energy website.

“We saw a shift in favour of climate action, but Canadians’ opinions on energy and climate are often polarized along partisan and ideological lines. To successfully chart Canada’s energy future, it is pivotal for decision-makers to understand how to navigate polarized contexts,” said Professor Monica Gattinger, Chair of Positive Energy and Director, Institute for Science, Society and Policy, University of Ottawa.

“COVID-19 was the top concern among Canadians for most of 2020. Our latest survey results suggest that concern for climate change among Canadians will grow as we emerge from the pandemic,” said Nik Nanos, CEO of Nanos Research and Chair of Positive Energy’s Advisory Council.

Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,096 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between November 26th to November 29th, 2020, as part of an Omnibus survey. The margin of error for this survey is ±3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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