MACLEAN’S REPORTS

The Vietnam war: what Canadians really think

ALEXANDER ROSS October 1 1967
MACLEAN’S REPORTS

The Vietnam war: what Canadians really think

ALEXANDER ROSS October 1 1967

The Vietnam war: what Canadians really think

MACLEAN’S REPORTS

MOST CANADIANS, when they argue about Vietnam, tend to assume that they’re speaking for the majority. But a surprising new opinion survey, conducted in Montreal and Toronto for Maclean’s and Le Magazine Maclean, suggests that Canadians in both cities, while leaning toward the dove position, are as deeply divided on the question as the Americans themselves.

The survey, conducted in midsummer by Montreal’s Centre de Recherches sur l'Opinion Publique, involved lengthy telephone interviews on who’s winning the war, what the U. S. should do about it and what, if anything, Canada's contribution should be. More than 200 persons were phoned in each city. But because of summer vacations — and the refusal of 25 percent of those approached to discuss the issue over the telephone — the results are based on 138 completed interviews in Montreal and 95 in Toronto. Survey officials say this sample is still statistically valid, despite the unusually high turndown rate.

If so, the survey indicates that Torontonians are markedly more hawklike than Montrealers. Just over half the Toronto respondents, for instance, think the U. S. intervention is in the best interests of the Vietnamese people.; but only 37 percent of the Montrealers take this position. Similarly, the prospect of the U. S. sending more troops to Vietnam was almost three times as popular in Toronto as it was in Montreal (28 percent versus 11 in Montreal). Two thirds of the Montrealers wanted Canada to call for an unconditional halt to U. S. bombing of the north. In Toronto, the figure was 39 percent.

Not all these opinions, however, were based on adequate information. Only 45 percent of the Montrealers, for instance, could identify the continent in which Vietnam is located. (In Toronto, the figure was 73 percent.) Montrealers weren’t much better in identifying which Vietnam the U. S. is assisting. Only 57 percent knew it was South Vietnam. In Toronto, 74 percent answered this question correctly.

Despite regional variations the overall pattern apparently favors the doves. Respondents in both cities were strongly — but not overwhelm-

ingly — opposed to a U. S. invasion of China (79 percent in Toronto. 64 percent in Montreal). Similarly, most respondents were against a U. S. invasion of North Vietnam, but opinion here was more divided; only 52 percent of the Montrealers were opposed, and 57 percent of the Torontonians. In both cities, respondents who thought the U. S. is losing the war outnumbered those who thought the Americans are winning.

But if the doves have a slight edge, it’s balanced by a strong strain of fatalism about the whole messy business. Most respondents believed that Canada can’t have much say in settling the war. And the widest agreement found in the w-hole survey was in response to the statement: “War is part of human nature. I think there will always be wars.” In Montreal, 65 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement. In Toronto, the figure was a whopping, disheartening 80 percent. ALEXANDER ROSS