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Keep on Tracking: Immigration and Public Opinion in Canada?. Jack Jedwab Executive Director Association for Canadian Studies Metropolis Canada Vancouver, British Columbia March 24, 2006. 1. Introduction.
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Keep on Tracking: Immigration and Public Opinion in Canada? Jack Jedwab Executive Director Association for Canadian Studies Metropolis Canada Vancouver, British Columbia March 24, 2006
1. Introduction • -Public opinion surveys on social issues can be a powerfully important tool not only in reflecting opinion but sometimes in shaping it. Immigration is by no means an exception as inquiries are often a vital part of social marketing campaigns aimed at modifying public opinion on a given matter. Hence the message and the medium are often interconnected • -Public opinion surveys frequently provide a snapshot reflecting the views of the population at a given point in time and are often influenced by events either domestically or internationally. These events might be described as pivotal moments. The events of September 11th, 2001 are widely regarded as a turning point that affected public opinion in a number of areas and hence have constituted a benchmark for many analysts that monitor change in attitudes.
1. Introduction • -When it comes to identifying key immigration issues ongoing discursive challenge are reflected in the way questions are formulated. Very often assumptions are built into questions on immigration and this may contribute to generating conclusions about public opinion that support a particular hypothesis. This is reflected not only in the way that questions are sometimes put about levels of immigration as well as closely related issues. The result is that contradictory outcomes arise. • -Testing knowledge on immigration sometimes assumes awareness amongst those surveyed about levels of immigration and the substance of immigration and/or related policies (i.e. multiculturalism or security). Hence as we will observe some questions about levels of immigration-perhaps the most popular area for testing- ask about satisfaction with numbers without providing them while others indicate the numbers and proceed to ask the public what they think. A less frequent approach might be to ask Canadians how many immigrants they think a country receives and then elicit opinion about the levels. Each approach has its limits.
1. Introduction • -Policy makers need to be careful about being guided by public opinion on immigration questions when such opinion can be fluid. But from a social marketing standpoint if the government seeks public support for immigration levels and related policy issues than it may choose to unpack the data to determine which segments of the population expressing either the most support or concern over the issues and attempt to better comprehend why this is so. • -There is need to better understand the way attitudes to levels of immigration relate to connected issues such as integration, multiculturalism, discrimination and national identity. Assumptions are often made that openness to immigration implies generally positive attitudes across the spectrum of diversity issues. While this may seem apparent too many, attitudes do not commonly a logical pattern and the manner in which they measured may contribute to a mixed bag when it comes to immigration? • -What assumptions should we make around divisions in opinion on immigration? Where identifiable should social marketing campaigns be directed at segments of the society that are less supportive of immigration?
2. Levels of Immigration • Approaches to asking about levels of immigration sometimes appear to be taking a page from the story of the three bears. Some will recall that the baby bear concerned with the temperature of the porridge first got it too hot and too cold before it was just about right. In the case of immigration surveys most indeed ask whether the annual numbers are too high, too low or just about right, whether there are too many or too few immigrants (or not enough immigrants), whether the levels of immigration should be increased, decreased or stay the same. The options provided can have an important impact on the results and thereafter the way they are ‘spun’ by those interpreting them. In effect if the conclusion is that ‘too many’ Canadians are concerned with immigration levels this may result in additional resources for immigrant immigration. If not than it may reinforce the view that the current policy direction is correct. • In the January 2006 Ipsos survey, the question was put as follows: • Currently Canada accepts about 225 000 immigrants each year, is the number Too High (44%), Too Low (10%), About Right (34%) or Don’t Know (12%). • A Gallup International Poll in three countries conducted in late November and early December 2005, asked whether you would like to see the level of immigration in this country increased, decreased, or remain about the same? About as many Canadians, in fact, say that they would like immigration increased as say they would like to have it decreased. The majority of Canadians (58%) seem content to have immigration levels remain the same. • The Gallup analyst concluded that Canadians remain much more positive about immigration than residents in the United States and in Great Britain who were far more likely to want to reduce the levels of immigration to their countries.
2. Levels of Immigration • The international comparison can be most relevant in social marketing campaigns. It permits Canada to boast about its record on immigration matters and provide reinforcement to take pride in the country’s openness. As revealed in a March 2004 survey, when contrasted with several other countries Canadians continue to be the most inclined to support increases in immigration levels (Carleton University Survey Centre for ISSP, March-April, 2004). Along with Australia, Canada appears most favorable to immigration. Still before making strong conclusions about such results it would be useful look at why this is so. Notably in Europe, observers have argued that the greater openness of the two countries is connected to their accessibility to immigrants and connected to these national immigration policies that tend to be more selective than is the case elsewhere.
Levels of Immigration • Ideally opinion on immigration should be put in some historic context so there appear to be operating in a vacuum. Very often without situating opinion in time the population has no reference through which to determine whether a profound change has occurred in thinking about the issue. The September 11th events were the cause of much concern about immigration and public opinion surveys were multiplied in an effort test its impact. • In February 2002 a Leger Marketing poll found that more than half of Canadians believe that Canada accepts too many immigrants. The question was put as follows: In your opinion, does Canada accept Too Many (54%), Not Enough (26%) or Don’t Know (20%). Again the way the options are presented to respondents wherein the ‘about right’ reply is dropped in favor of the ‘don’t know’ category makes for a different outcome and interpretation around feelings over levels. • The Leger poll designed as a post-September 11th follow up differs from Environics historic polling which suggests more openness to immigrants with a different question formulation. • According to the Environcs survey, in October 2001, the number of Canadians who say this country allows in the right number of immigrants stands at 50 per cent, up three percentage points from the weeks immediately following the September 11 attacks but similar to levels recorded previously. However, those who say Canada lets in too many immigrants (36%) is more than five times the number of those who say we let in too few immigrants (7%). • The effect of the September 11 terrorist attacks led to a slight increase in the number of Canadians who think there are too many immigrants allowed into this country but is remains down significantly (-10 percentage points) from levels recorded in January 1996.
Unpacking Public Opinion on Immigration Levels • -Women (39%) are more likely than are men (32%) to say that the country permits too many immigrants in the country. • Belief that Canada takes in too many immigrants increases with age, from 31 percent among those between 18 and 29 years of age to 41percent among those 60 years of age and older. Likewise, the proportion who says that Canada lets in the right number of immigrants decreases with age, from a high of 57 percent in the youngest age group to a low of 47 percent in the oldest age group (but still a plurality). • Canadians with less than a high school diploma are most likely to say too many immigrants are coming here (49%) compared to those who’ve completed high school (44%), community college (39%), some university (29%) or a university degree (23%).
Unpacking Public Opinion on Immigration Levels • Canadians with an income of less than $30,000 per year are most likely to say too many immigrants are coming here (39%), than those with an income of $30,000-$50,000 (35%), $50,000-$70,000 (33%), or over $70,000 (30%). • Canadians who work full-time (49%), work part-time (47%), unemployed (56%), • Anglophones (38%) are more likely than are Francophones (30%) to say that too many immigrants are coming to Canada, while Francophones are more likely to say the right number of immigrants are being let in (59%) than are Anglophones (47%). • Visible minorities are more likely to say Canada has too many immigrants (45%) than are other Canadians (34%). • Canadians who do not belong to visible minority groups are more likely to say Canada is letting in the right number of immigrants (51%) than are visible minority Canadians (44%). • Canadians who have no friends from other cultural or ethnic groups in their social circle are most likely to say too many immigrants are let into Canada (57%) compared to those who have a few friends (32%), an equal number of friends (33%), or most of their friends (29%) from other ethnic or cultural backgrounds than their own. Similarly, • Environics, Social Cohesion –2002
4. Influence of Immigrants • Another popular question that is commonly put to the population involves the influence of immigrants. Influence can undoubtedly be a multifaceted notion touching on issues of economy and culture. The January 2006 Ipsos survey reports that more than half of Canadians (52%) believe immigrants are having a “good influence” on the way things are going in Canada - while 40% feel that immigrants are having a “bad influence”. • Regardless of opinion about levels of immigration, the Leger Marketing poll (February 2002) reveals that 75.0% feel that immigrants make an economic contribution and 83.6% that they make a positive cultural contribution to the country (an issue explored in the next section). • International surveys place Canadians high in terms of the extent to which they favorably regard the economic impact of immigrants.
4. Influence of Immigrants • Traditionally most analysts have contended that when the economy is weak there is less support for immigration and support is greater when the economy is strong. But public opinion no longer seems to follow such cycles in the same way that it presumably did through much of the twentieth century. • That said, the broadly positive view of immigrants contribution to the Canadian economy seems somewhat undercut by the perception of an important minority that immigrants fuel unemployment. • The 2006 Ipsos reveals that 46% feel that immigrants coming to Canada today mostly “take jobs that Canadians don’t want” and a further 19% feel they “create new jobs for themselves”. Only one in five (22%) think immigrants “take away jobs from Canadians” and 13% say they don’t know (January 2006, Ipsos-Reid). Women (25%) are somewhat more likely than men (19%) and non-immigrants (23%) more so than immigrants (13%) feel that they take jobs away from Canadians. Internationally Canadians are just below the average on this question which is surprising when considering how high they rank in their view of the positive view of immigration on the economy.
4. Influence of Immigrants • Paradoxically immigrants are seen quite widely seen as good for the economy and on the other hand viewed by some as taking jobs away from ‘Canadians’ • Forty-eight percent of Canadians who are very worried about the economy also think that too many immigrants are let into the country, compared to 35 percent who are not worried about the economy at all.
5. Immigration, Multiculturalism and Integration • Most Canadians appreciate our multicultural reality and the stigma historically attached to that term by some segments of the population has been eroding over the years. Indeed the positive view of multiculturalism as an important Canadian value is partly attributable to successful social marketing of diversity to the population and notably to the younger generation. Still the meaning and challenges of incorporating diversity into Canadian society are the object of division within public opinion for many these are more relevant than the attachment to the concept of multiculturalism.
5. Immigration, Multiculturalism and Integration • When it comes to questions about multiculturalism the goods news is reflected in some of the findings below: • -75% agree that It is better for Canada to have a variety of people with different religions • -74% agree Canada’s multicultural make-up is one of the best things about this country • (January 2006,Ipsos) • -64% disagree that It is better for Canada if almost everyone shares the same customs and traditions • -47% say immigrants from different cultures have made our culture stronger (37%) or much stronger (10%), compared to 28 percent who say they have had a neutral effect and 23 percent who say this has made our culture weaker (18%) or much weaker (5%).
5. Immigration, Multiculturalism and Integration • Canadians are more likely to have favorable impressions of the contributions of immigrants as their education increases, with 56 percent of those with university degrees saying that immigration has made Canadian culture stronger compared to 41 percent of those with less than a high-school diploma. Community size remains a key factor in determining attitudes toward the effect of immigration on our culture. For rural communities under 10,000 people, 44 percent say immigrants have made Canadian culture stronger but that number increases to 50 percent among those living in major metropolitan areas. • Internationally Canadians rank well above the international average in the degree to which they regard the immigrant contribution positively.
5. Immigration, Multiculturalism and Integration • There has been a tendency to detach the immigration data and its dissemination from findings on issues relating to multiculturalism. Once part of the same of the government department, immigration is now tied to citizenship while multiculturalism is part of Canadian Heritage. There remain very strong connections between the two and the intersection is particularly evident when it comes to the issues of integration and adaptation. As to the terms are not always well defined it is this area where public opinion may seem contradictory to some observers. In the public arena, detractors of immigration and multiculturalism have frequently made use of data that reflects the concern of Canadians around issues of integration and adaptation. Supporters of multiculturalism have made use of the data that points to the degree to which the population and notably the younger generation value multiculturalism and the relatively good support for levels of immigration. • There is some consistency when combining answers to questions about immigration levels and the contribution of immigrants to the cultural enrichment of Canada. The 2002 Environics reveals that those feeling that Canada is accepting too many immigrants show the lowest rate of strong agreement (20%), those who feel that we are accepting the right number of immigrants agree more intensely (48%) and those who feel that we are accepting too few immigrants agree most intensely (62%) that people from different racial and cultural groups are enriching the cultural life of Canada.
5. Immigration, Multiculturalism and Integration • But for many the cracks in the mosaic of Canadian public opinion emerge with the difficult questions about integration and adaptation. In part it is because it is assumed that supporters of multiculturalism do not accept the possibility that those valuing the diversity of the country’s population think that minority groups should try to be more like most other Canadians-however defined. Such questions which tend to be common to surveys on integration make assumptions about not only about what it means to be like most other Canadians but also use minority group which is increasingly something according to which most Canadians can define themselves. • Nonetheless, at least notionally, Canadians are divided on the best approach to immigrant/minority adaptation. And as opinion makers continually debate the meaning of adaptation we can expect the public to be confused and the survey results to reflect such confusion. In 2002, while 43 percent of Canadians feel that the higher priority for Canada is to encourage Canadians to try to accept members of minority groups and their customs and languages, another 45 percent feel that the higher priority is for minority groups to try to change to be more like most Canadians, 7% feel that neither option is valid and 5% cannot say or do not know. In comparison, in 1998, Angus Reid reported that 52 percent of Canadians felt that minority groups should be encouraged to try to change to be more like most Canadians. However, the proportion that feels that Canadians should accept minority groups and their customs and languages remains unchanged from 1998.
5. Immigration, Multiculturalism and Integration • Perceptions in this regard seem to vary with strong agreement with the extent to which multicultural society is considered a cornerstone of Canadian culture. Thus, 51% of those who feel that Canadians should try to accept minority groups and their customs and languages also strongly agree that multiculturalism in this country is a cornerstone of our culture. Conversely, only one quarter (24%) of those who feel that we should encourage minority groups to change to be more like Canadians also strongly agree that multiculturalism is a cornerstone of our culture. • Conversely, only one in five (20%) of those who feel that we should encourage minority groups to change to be more like Canadians also strongly agree that multiculturalism is a cornerstone of our culture. • Those who feel that there are too many immigrants in Canada prioritize minority groups becoming more like other Canadians (61%) over the acceptance of their customs and languages (31%). In contrast, those who see the number of immigrants in Canada as too few or about right prioritize acceptance (56% and 50% respectively) over adjustment (32% and 37% respectively).
5. Immigration, Multiculturalism and Integration • Women (45%) more intensely than men (41%) feel that the higher priority is that Canadians should try to accept minority groups and their customs and languages. One-third (34%) of those between 18 and 29 years of age prioritize minority groups changing to be more like Canadians. However, agreement with this approach as a priority increases to 43 percent of those between 30 and 44 years old, 49 percent of those between 45 and 59 years old and more than half (54%) of those who are 60 years old or older. Conversely, three in five Canadians in the youngest age group (59%) feel that it should be a higher priority for Canadians to accept minorities, their customs and languages. This level of agreement decreases to 45 percent of those between 30 and 44 years old, 37 percent of those between 45 and 59 years old and only three in ten (30%) of those in the oldest age group (60 years and older). • Acceptance versus Acculturation as a Priority by Age (%) • In a 2004 Environics when asked which of the following two statements do you think best describes the impact of Canada's multiculturalism policy half of Canadians surveyed agreed that it helps people with various backgrounds and religions to fully integrate to fully integrate into Canadian society while 40% maintained that it causes some groups to never fully integrate into Canadian society. In this case the word minority groups is not used and the question uses the positively resonating term multiculturalism which may soften the integration concern.
6. Immigration and Racism • Though Canadians have a generally positive view of immigrants some 70% of the population think anti-immigrant sentiment represents a serious problem in Canadian society (combined very and somewhat serious problem)? On that positive side, the post 9-11 survey conducted in 2002 by Leger Marketing reveals that some 83.3% of Canadians feel that Canada should keep its borders open to people of Arab descent or Muslim faith while 12.3% would like Canada to deny them access. But while favorable Canadians are willing to make significant distinctions in their preferred source countries when asked about where they would like immigrants to come from. • Some 61.1% of Canadians say they are favorable to immigrants from Western Europe while this rate falls to 34.4% when it comes to immigrants from Arab countries. Other groups of immigrants were favored in the following order: Eastern Europe (56.2%), Latin America (52.9%), Asia (49.9%), Black Africa (49.8%) and North Africa (47.2%).
7. Immigration and Security • And despite the openness to immigration the growing concern over security since 9-11 may have added modified the bar for maintaining the current degree of support for immigration. Some 83.5% think that Canada should be stricter when it comes to immigration. About 41.1% of Canadians think that the Government of Canada should be less open with regard to political refugees, while 24.0% would like to be more open and 29.4% find that the current level of openness should remain as it is. Nine Canadian out of ten would like immigrants who have not yet obtained their Canadian citizenship to have a photo ID card. • Of course security concerns around immigration have risen in all immigrant receiving countries. But Canada does remain quite progressive in its rejection of immigrant stereotypes as revealed below where compared to other countries it is the least likely to agree with the idea that immigrants increase crime rates.
8. Regions and Cities • The 2002 Environics survey reveals with greater interaction with persons of various backgrounds contributes to higher support for immigration levels. It is widely assumed that this is correct and by consequence historically it has been contended that the cities are more immigrant-friendly than the less urban parts of the country. However recent survey findings may throw into question the assumption those smaller towns may be less open to immigrants. In part this may be due to the changing nature of social marketing campaigns of the 1990’s which have focused heavily on the country’s demographic needs and as such in those places where such concerns are greatest. • A 2005 survey conducted by the Strategic Counsel for Infrastructure Canada reveals that aslim majority (55%) of Canadians agree that "more immigrants and newcomers should be encouraged to live in my city or town." Agreement with this statement is highest among Atlantic Canadians (68%), Prairies (56%), Quebec (55%), Ontario (54%) and residents of communities between 100,000 and just under 500,000 (60%) versus 1 million and over (52%).
8. Regions and Cities • (Now I'm going to read you a series of statements. Please tell me the extent to which you agree or disagree with each using a 7-point scale, where 7 means you strongly agree, 1 means you strongly disagree and the mid-point 4 means you neither agree or disagree). • Openness to newcomers and immigrants declines with age, with those in the 18 to 24 age cohort (63%) most likely to agree with this statement, declining to a bare majority (52%) among those aged 65 and older. • Those with a higher education level are somewhat more likely to welcome immigrants and newcomers to their community. University graduates (59%) are more likely to support the promotion of newcomers and immigrants to their communities as compared to those with a high school education, or less (52%).
9. Role of the State • Public knowledge of immigration policy is rarely examined and generally confined to levels of immigration. Hence both in Canada and abroad questions that touch on what the government does in this regard may result in yet further confusion. A good example of this arises when the issue of government spending is submitted to the population. Again despite the comparatively favorable view of immigration in the country when it comes to state spending in the area just under half of Canadians agree that the government spends too much money assisting immigrants. Indeed Canadians are right in line with the international average on this issue.