by Amanda Connolly in Ottawa
The level of trust Canadians have in the federal government is at its highest point since EKOS Research began measuring the key indicator 17 years ago, a new survey shows.
According to the poll, which surveyed 1,176 Canadian adults over the age of 18 on April 14th and 15th, 44 per cent said they “almost always” or “most of the time” trust the new Trudeau government in Ottawa to do what is right, compared to roughly 30 per cent who said the same before the October election, when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were in power, and a low of 22 per cent in fall 2014.
That 44 per cent is the highest number tracked since EKOS began asking “the trust question” in 1990 and is the highest level measured previous to that by Gallup since the mid-1970s.
The poll was conducted more than three weeks after the Liberal government’s first budget, which was tabled on March 22 and reflected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s major, controversial, election promise of deficit spending to stimulate economic growth.
The current numbers also reflect that 53 per cent of respondents say they trust the government only some of the time or almost never, down from a six-year high of 76 per cent in August 2014 and just over 60 per cent in October 2015.
The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
“It’s really quite surprising to see the amount of bouyancy in that number with the current government,” said EKOS pollster Frank Graves. “I would have guessed it would go up but I would not have guessed it would go up that much or that it would have persisted for several months.”
According to EKOS Research numbers, the number of Canadians who said they trust the government to do what is right dropped consistently during the 1970s and 1980s, reaching a low of roughly 20 per cent in 1990.
That time period encompassed the terms of former prime ministers Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark, John Turner and Brian Mulroney, with trust levels beginning a slow climb again during the end years of Mulroney and the governments of Kim Campbell and Jean Chretien.
However, starting in 2000 that number became sharply more volatile than in years of the past, rising and dropping during the tumultuous end of Jean Chretien’s tenure and the entirety of Paul Martin’s government, before rising sharply and falling equally sharply between the time Stephen Harper came into and left office.
At the same time, the number of Canadians who say they believe the country is heading in the right direction may be levelling out to post-election norms.
Between April 2015 and October 2015, the number of respondents who said the country was heading in the right direction ranged from between 39 and 50 per cent, while those who said the country was heading in the wrong direction were between 49 and 62 per cent.
In January 2016, just three months after the election, those both reached their respective peaks: roughly 69 per cent said the country is heading in the right direction while roughly 32 per cent said the opposite.
Those post-election reactions appear to be moderating, with 55.2 per cent of respondents saying the country is heading in the right direction compared to 37.5 per cent who say the opposite.
The number of respondents who said the Government of Canada is heading in the right direction — and those who say the opposite — down slightly from where they were in January, with 60 per cent saying the government is heading in the right direction and 33 per cent saying it is heading in the wrong direction.
Given the recent post-oil crash economic turmoil in the country, that’s unusual, says Graves.
“That’s paradoxical because often a very poor economy has a corrosive impact on the public’s sense of whether the government’s moving in the right direction,” he said. “In this case, we don’t see that. We see the opposite. But that patience will not be infinite.”
Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca.