OTTAWA — New polling suggests the majority of Canadians want the federal government to call an independent inquiry into foreign interference in the last two federal elections, but still feel the country’s electoral system is safe.
Market research firm Leger surveyed 1,544 people between March 10 and 12, asking a range of questions about Canada’s electoral system and allegations of foreign interference.
The results suggest 71 per cent of Canadians feel the electoral system is safe, while 29 per cent feel it is not.
And the majority, 69 per cent of respondents, said they generally trust the results of elections in Canada. One in five said they do not trust the results, and another 11 per cent said they don’t know.
The poll cannot be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not considered truly random samples.
Allegations that China meddled in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections have dominated debate on Parliament Hill for weeks, following a series of media reports published by the Globe and Mail newspaper and Global News.
The reports, based on leaks from security sources, detailed allegations that China attempted to interfere to support candidates considered friendly to Beijing, and to ensure the Liberals won a minority in 2021.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that he will soon appoint an “eminent Canadian” with a wide mandate to probe the allegations and make recommendations about what action the government should take next.
Opposition parties are demanding a public inquiry into what happened.
The poll suggests there is a strong partisan divide in opinions about elections overall.
“Those who tend to distrust our electoral system, and so on, it tends to fall on partisan lines,” said Christian Bourque, executive vice-president of Leger.
“It is those who tend to be right-leaning voters who tend to show a greater distrust for traditional institutions in our democracy, like elections.”
The poll suggests 93 per cent of respondents who vote Liberal felt the electoral system was safe. Conservative voters were split, with 52 per cent saying they felt the system was safe, and 48 per cent saying they felt it wasn’t.
Liberal and NDP supporters were most likely to say they generally trust in the results of elections in Canada, with 92 per cent of Liberal voters and 81 per cent of NDP voters.
Trust in elections was slightly lower among Bloc Québécois supporters, at 75 per cent, and Green voters, at 64 per cent.
Just 55 per cent of Conservative voters said they generally trust in elections, while 36 per cent said they do not. Trust was lowest among supporters of the People’s Party of Canada.
Bourque said he would be surprised if there was that much doubt in election results before the rise of former U.S. president Donald Trump, who continues to reject the legitimacy of the 2021 presidential race.
“Our system of government is based on fair and open elections, and only seven out of 10 Canadians believe that’s the case right now,” he said.
Unlike the other results, calls for an inquiry don’t follow party allegiances.
“It seems to me that Canadians want to get to the bottom of this,” said Bourque, adding even if people don’t believe foreign interference affected election results, the idea of it happening is still “scary” and Canadians don’t want it to happen again.
One-third of those polled said the potential for foreign interference is “so important that it greatly compromises the legitimacy of the results of the election.”
But the poll also indicated that one-third of Canadians haven’t heard anything about foreign interference.
“Sometimes we get so focused on what’s going on the Hill that we kind of forget, but the rest of people’s lives are actually going on at the same time,” said Bourque.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2023.
David Fraser, The Canadian Press