They like us! They really like us!

KEN MACQUEEN November 20 2006

They like us! They really like us!

KEN MACQUEEN November 20 2006

They like us! They really like us!


Angus Reid’s Canada and the World poll for Maclean's shows our international reputation is riding high, BYKENMACQUEEN


Fourteen years isn’t much, even in the life of a youngish country like Canada, but how things have changed. True, in 1992, as now, there was a Conservative federal government, albeit one flying toward certain disaster in uncertain times. Politician and voter alike were lost in the constitutional morass of the Charlottetown accord. Central Canada was writhing in recession. The national debt was growing like a hormonal teen. Doubt and debate raged over the value of the three-yearold free trade agreement with the United States. The year’s most vile import, speaking of unfair trade, was a tune called AchyBreaky Heart. Yup, things were ugly.

The nation today, under another Conservative government of uncertain longevity, is a changed place: richer, confident, somewhat less likely to two-step to just any old American tune. Canadians feel it, and much of the world does too, according to a survey by Angus Reid Strategies for Maclean’s of 20 countries and their views on Canada and the world. The results are in sharp contrast to 1992, when the Angus Reid Group (now Ipsos Reid) conducted a similar survey of 13 of the same countries. “There was a sense then we were a nation of losers,” Angus Reid says. “Here we are 14 years later, and when we compare the Zeitgeist of Canada,

especially with the United States, it’s not bad.” In fact, it’s downright robust, and a bit cocky. Canada may have formed the world’s largest trading relationship with the U.S., but the survey shows the Canadian identity is “remarkably intact,” says Michael Byers, who holds the Canadian Research Chair in Global Politics and Law at the University of British Columbia. The resurgent Canadian spirit is

Compared to other developed countries, would you say Canada is better or worse in terms of quality of life?

all the more dramatic in contrast to the U.S., where the survey reveals a profound loss of faith in that country’s political and national institutions. The world sees an America in decline, says Byers. “We look pretty good in

comparison to our neighbours, who are not doing very well.” The terror attacks of Sept. 11,2001, have had a huge impact on U.S. foreign policy and the American psyche, says Antonia Maioni, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. Partly as a result, Canada’s international role diverges from the U.S. on many issues. She cites as examples the refusal to join the Iraq war, and Canada’s lead in securing an international ban on antipersonnel landmines. Legalizing same-sex marriage also drew world notice. “They might not agree with it,” she says, “but they at least see it as an indication of a wider tolerance.” Perhaps no survey response better reveals the outside view of Canadian good fortune than answers to this question: “Compared to other developed countries, would you say Canada is better or worse in terms of quality of life?” Better, replied all countries in the survey. The lowest score came from the Japanese, where 72 per cent still agreed Canada had a stellar quality of life. All the rest of the responses soared into the 80th and 90th percentiles. Mexicans weighed in at 97 per cent agreement. Respondents from France, South Africa, Lebanon and Egypt all came in at 98 per cent. Saudi Arabia topped out, with 99 per cent endorsing Canada’s quality of life— a life markedly different than the Saudis’ own in terms of multiculturalism, equality rights, weather and geography. Even 95 per cent of the toughest audience of all—those chronic, complaining Canadians—agreed they’d lucked out in the lifestyle sweepstakes.

Of course, the world view of Canada is far more nuanced than such glowing responses suggest. It isn’t just Canadians who obsess about our relationship with the U.S., for in-

stance—everyone else does, too. It’s one of the yardsticks by which we are measured, for better or worse. But in the main, the world likes what it sees. The opinion that Canada is a tolerant nation has increased in every country in the past 14 years. The view that Canada is a generous aid donor has also climbed, though it is an opinion with a weak claim on reality. The Canadian quality of life numbers have also climbed, perhaps a reflection of Canada’s robust economy, and the fact that the U.S. and other developed nations are now the ones running monster deficits.

Reid boiled down the worldwide results into an “affinity index,” an attempt to measure why some people love Canada to bits, why others somewhat like us, and why some are ambivalent about Canada’s charms. The results are instructive. Canada’s “fans,” says Reid, are focused on people and policy. “They are far more likely to point to human factors: that there’s a good quality of life, that the social services are really good,” he says. They’re twice as likely as the “ambivalents” to value Canada’s strong economy and its multi-ethnic, diverse population. Those who are cool to Canada tend to focus on its geography and environment. “They just see Canada as this big land mass,” says Reid.

When the 1,000 American respondents are taken separately, one-quarter consider Canada’s geography and environment the

most appealing aspect. Canadian quality of life and a combination of social services and sound government each merit 17 per cent of American responses. But 25 per cent of Canada’s closest neighbours can’t think of anything “most appealing” about their northern neighbour, the highest response (or non-response) of any country. It’s unclear if this is a measure of American hostility, or American indifference. Either way, says Reid, “the Canadian Tourism Commission has got to ramp up its operations.” Canadians can take heart that one in five Americans can’t think of what’s “least appealing” about Canada, either. Some 36 per cent of Americans, however, were most unimpressed with Canada’s geography and environment (think winter). High taxes were another Canadian flaw.

The complex, tangled relationship across the 49th parallel is not just a Canadian obsession—the world watches, too. Reid measured views of Canadian foreign policy with a double-barrelled statement. People were asked which they agreed with more: that “Canada is a global leader in working for human rights and peace in the world”; or, “in foreign affairs, Canada does pretty much what the United States wants it to do.” Globally, 57 per cent see Canada as a force for peace and human rights. A substantial 43 per cent consider Canada a U.S. puppet, an opinion shared by 43 per cent of Amer-

Strong and free?

Which of the following statements do you agree with more:

‘Canada is a global leader in working for human rights and peace in the world5 or ‘In foreign affairs, Canada does pretty much what the United States wants it to do.5

Across most of the developed world, religious faith is playing a fading role in everyday life. Mainstream organized religions in Canada—and particularly Quebec—have struggled for years with emptying pews. But the decline in the United States, where President George W. Bush has made Christian faith a central tenet

of his administration, is more surprising. Overall, the results show the decline is in primarily Christian nations.

The survey asked respondents in 20 countries if they agreed that religion is “very important to me in my daily life.” In Canada, 61 per cent said it was not. The level of religious support in the U.S. is much higher, but it too appears to be eroding. In fact, the hold of religion has dropped almost across the board since the Angus Reid Group (now Ipsos Reid) asked the same question in a 1992 survey.

Religion plays a role in the daily lives of 63 per cent of American respondents, down from 83 per cent 14 years ago. In Canada, the percentage of those who make religion part of their lives fell to 39 per cent from 6l; in Britain to 23 per cent from 41; in France, to 17 from 37; in Spain to 31 from 69; in Italy to 51 from 71. Russia is a notable exception. Half of Russians (51 per cent) say religion is an important part of their lives, up from 34 per cent in 1992. In India, where Hinduism is the predominant religion, adherents fell to 55 per cent, from 79 per cent 14 years ago.

Predominantly Muslim countries included in the current Maclean’s survey show a higher level of devotion. Turks were evenly split between the devout and the non-religious. But religion was important to 65 per cent of Lebanese respondents, to 89 per cent of Egyptians and to 96 per cent of Saudis. By contrast, just 41 per cent of Israelis said religion was important to them.

World leaders

Admire: 5% Neutral: 35% Not admire: 60%

Admire: 8% Neutrai; 33% Not admire: 59%

Admire: 8% Neutral: 28% Not admire: 64%

Admire: 9% Neutrai: 49% Not admire: 41%

Admire: 12% Neutrai: 26% Not admire: 62%

Admire: 16% Neutral: 64% Not admire: 20%

Admire: 41% Neutrai: 39% Not admire: 20%

Admire: 52% Neutral 35% Not admire: 13%

Rock-ribbed Republican candidates can only be grateful the rest of the world didn’t vote in the Nov. 7 mid-term elections. The Maclean’s survey of 20 countries placed U.S. President George W.

Bush third among the list of the world’s least admired leaders.

Only Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese Islamist party Hezbollah, and Kim Jong II, the Stalinist strongman of North Korea, were held in lower regard by the poll’s respondents. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the antiSemitic, America-hating president of Iran, finished fourth. Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s outspoken secretary of state, ranked fifth among the world’s most loathed.

Canadian respondents rank Bush fourth, amid the same dismal company. Americans hold a more benevolent view of their president. About half say they don’t admire him, and about one-third say they

do. Not a great Satan, just a middle-ofthe-pack one. Both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, two Democrat ex-presidents, ranked higher among Americans. And both are so popular in Canada that Clin-

ton could consider reviving his political career north of the border. Certainly Canadians hold Clinton in higher regard than they do Stephen Harper. The Canadian Prime Minister, in fact, is a global nonentity. Most respondents say they have no opinion about him, good or bad—likely an indication of his short time on the international stage.

Notably, the world’s most admired leaders are above or beyond politics. The most popular—both globally and among Canadians—is Nelson Mandela, the one-time political prisoner who helped topple apartheid and became South Africa’s president. Bill Gates, the world’s richest man and its most generous aid donor, ranks second. The Dalai Lama, exiled political and spiritual leader of Tibet, is third, followed by Clinton and Bono, the U2 front man and international aid scold.

icans—and 45 per cent of Canadians. This may make Canada a compliant neighbour from the U.S. point of view, but it’s not a path to world popularity. “Canadian fans see us as having a strong independent foreign policy,” says Reid. “Those who are ambivalent about Canada see us as toadies to the United States.”

Bushed, bothered and bewildered

A deep level of malaise and self-doubt has crept into the American psyche since Reid’s global poll of 14 years ago. “If you went back to 1992, you’d look at a world in which we’re talking about American ascendancy,” Reid says. “We had this great sense in this post-Cold War era the world belonged to America. It was

going to be this super-titan. Now, we look at how the mighty has sunk.”

The indicators are across the spectrum. A significant number of Americans doubt their leadership, and see the U.S. and its foreign policy as a threat to global stability. More than 80 per cent of Americans call corruption “a big problem in my country,” up from 66 per cent

Murder or politics?

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘Suicide bombings, which kill innocent civilians, can be a legitimate form of political action?’

in 1992. The corruption issue—not limited by the question to politics, law or business—puts the U.S. distressingly close to responses from Russia, Italy, Lebanon and India, among others. “That’s really something,” says UBC’s Byers of America’s cynical response. “The people who are best attuned to corruption are on the receiving end of it. The people who are paying for this corruption are the ones who are actually answering this poll,” he says. “One word,” says McGill’s Maioni. “Enron.” The fraud-fuelled collapse of the giant energy trader shook American faith in the private sector, she says. “Americans went through their [political] Calvary with Watergate,” she says. “Enron was a symbol that this was a pervasive issue in the corporate world.”

Nor is there much faith in the U.S. justice system. Just 27 per cent of Americans said in

1992 that the justice system treats everyone equally. The response today is consistently bleak—better only than Mexico, Italy and Russia, and tied with Spain. By contrast, a slight majority of Canadians believe there is real equality before the law.

U.S. disenchantment runs deep. My Country Right or Wrong was once a phrase to stiffen American resolve. For many, it’s been reduced from a statement to a question—with 60 per cent voting “wrong.” Six of 10 American respondents say their country is on the “wrong track.” Compare that to the extraordinary 76 per cent of Canadians who say Canada is on the “right track,” a level of blissed-out optimism exceeded only by oil-soaked Saudi Arabia, and the emerging economic powerhouses of India and China.

As for the long-term view, slightly more Americans, 37 per cent, believe their children will be worse off than they are, compared to 34 per cent who see a brighter future for their kids. The rest just aren’t sure. Canadians are moderately more optimistic: 42 per cent believe their children’s future will be better than theirs. Australia is alone among developed countries in having a majority belief that the future will be better. Again, it’s the developing powerhouses India, China and Russia where the optimism is most palpable. “For developing countries, hopefully, the only way is up,” says Maioni. “For the highly industrialized countries, there’s a sense of stagnation. Also there’s all sorts of issues about demographics: an aging population, [low] fertility, how we’re going to care for the aged, the immigration levels we’re going to need to sustain our productivity. We’re in a globally competitive world,” she says, “and it is getting harder and harder to stay on top.”

Canada: The myth is strong

Gosh, we’re wonderful. No one thinks more highly of Canada’s role as international peacekeepers than Canadians themselves, even though its soldiers are fighting—and dyingin a shooting war in Afghanistan. The role


Well, there goes the neighbourhood. As world opinion has it, Canadians live above the country posing the single greatest threat to world peace; a country run by a man so despised he sits just behind North Korea’s explosive Kim Jong II in the pantheon of unloved leaders.

The verdict of the world, as measured by the 20-nation survey conducted by Angus Reid Strategies, has not been kind to Canada’s closest ally and largest trading partner. When asked which country is “the greatest threat to global stability,” 33 per cent of respondents worldwide named the United States. Iran, a country that does not play well with others, finished second at 18 per cent, followed, in descending order of contempt, by China, Israel, Iraq and North Korea. Russia, once the great lumbering bear of global instability, finishes a distant eighth. In all, 37 per cent of Canadians and 46 per cent of Mexicans ranked the U.S. as the highest threat. So did 46 per cent of Russians, 60 per cent of those in Turkey and 63 per cent of those in China. Most amazing, one-quarter of Americans agreed.

The increasing role of suicide bombers, who are exacting a heavy toll of civilians and soldiers in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel, have little worldwide support, though not blanket condemnation. Asked if “suicide bombings, which kill innocent civilians, can be a legitimate form of political action,” nine of 10 Canadian, American and Russian respondents said no. Still, such bombings were considered legitimate by 21 per cent of respondents from Turkey, 22 per cent from Japan, 27 per cent from Egypt, 29 per cent from Saudi Arabia and 31 per cent from Lebanon. “Ninety per cent of the worldwide population is saying ‘no way,’ ” says Reid. “This is frankly an area where you have these Muslim countries which are far more likely to see this as a point of legitimacy.”

of blue-helmeted Canadian peacekeepers is viewed as “essential” by 87 per cent of Canadians. The world tends to agree, though in less enthusiastic numbers. However, a majority of Germans, 55 per cent, see little value in Canada’s peacekeeping role, as do 42 per cent of Americans.

When it comes to helping poorer countries, eight in 10 Canadian respondents deem themselves “very generous.” The world generally agrees—though Canada is nowhere near meeting its stated goal of spending 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product on international

In the eyes of the world

aid. Just ask U2 front man Bono—he’ll tell you, again and again and again. So, Canada is peaceable and sort of generous. Above all, however, it is a bastion of broadmindedness, ask anybody. More than nine in 10 Canadians consider themselves “tolerant of people from different backgrounds.” Remarkably, every one of the 19 other countries in the survey rate Canadian tolerance about equally as high.

Lament for a nation, my foot

Political philosopher George Grant’s Lament for a Nation, with its dim view of the future of

an independent Canada, has influenced most every Canadian political science student of the past 40 years, says UBC’s Byers. Grant’s belief that continentalism would turn Canada into a branch plant, render the border an “anachronism,” and strip the Canadian identity, is treated as near gospel. Yet, says Byers, the Maclean ’s survey shows the Canadian psyche flourishes—it’s Grant’s thesis that’s in trouble. “It’s kind of like somebody coming along and saying God doesn’t exist,” he says.

One measure of the confidence is Canadian support for freer trade, which has grown to 66 per cent from 42 per cent in 1992. “Canadians are increasingly realizing that we can be an autonomous, healthy, vibrant power here in Canada, even while we’re making lots and lots of money trading with the United States,” says Byers. Canadians can trade with a nation without going to war with it, and while rejecting many of America’s foreign policies, says Byers.

Does that make Canadians anti-American? Not at all, says Maioni. “What they’re really saying is they don’t like the kinds of policies that are being put into place, or the rhetoric of the current [U.S.] administration,” she says. More than half of Americans, she notes, also disagree with the direction of the current administration. “I think we have a lot of similar values,” she says. “I think this poll confirms that.”

As to what the poll does to define that resilient, if elusive, Canadian identity, well, good luck. We’re not like America, it seems to say, but we’re not unlike Americans—at least those Americans who don’t like where America is headed. A good Canadian, in other words, seems to be a bad American. It’s not much of a definition, but the rest of the world seems to like it just fine. M

ON THE WEB: For more complete results from the Canada and the World poll see

Canada's affair with Australia

G’day, eh? The United States has long been the obvious choice for Canadians seeking a fresh start in new surroundings, but given their druthers, more Canucks would live with their Commonwealth cousins in Australia. Australia is the first choice, at 18 per cent, for Canadians when asked, “If you could live in any country in the world, other than your own, which country would you choose to live in?” The U.S., in second place, is the choice of 14 per cent. “There is clearly an Aussie-Canadian love affair going on,” says pollster Angus Reid.

Australia is a mutual partner in this long-distance affair. Canada is the first choice as a new home for 17 per cent of Australian respondents, with the U.S. in second place with 12 per cent. New Zealand and Britain—the motherland for many Aussies—are tied for third with 10 per cent. Worldwide, though, the U.S. is the destination of choice for the largest share of respondents, 14 per cent. Australia is the world’s second choice at 12 per cent, with Canada ranking next at 10 per cent. “We’re No. 3,” notes Reid. “How very Canadian of us.”

Gerry Turcotte is one ex-Quebecer who chose Australia, and has spent two decades analyzing why. Turcotte arrived to do a Ph.D. at the University of Sydney. Today, he’s director of the Centre of CanadianAustralian Studies at the University of Wollongong. “Aussies have what seems to be an inbuilt and automatic affection for Canada and Canadians,” he says, “but often there is very little detail about why they feel this way, except, perhaps vaguely, that we are kindred spirits.”

Methodology: The Maclean’s Canada and the World study was conducted by Angus Reid Strategies between Sept. 22 and Oct. 6, 2006. Responses were collected via online surveys of a random sample in each of 20 countries in the poll. There were 1,200 respondents from Canada, 1,000 in the U.S. and 200 in each of the other countries—except Lebanon, which had a sample of 125. The Canadian and U.S. results are considered to reflect the responses of the overall population to within plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20. The smaller samples have a margin of error of plus or minus seven per cent (nine per cent in Lebanon), 19 times out of 20. The surveys were conducted in the domestic language of each country, except in India and South Africa, where English was used. Reid says the online survey is representative of the general population in the U.S., Canada, Australia and ail European countries surveyed. In countries with lower computer usage, the results “are somewhat biased toward the more urban, educated and affluent segments of the population.”