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Trust in government: Canadians wary of politicians and their intentions

And so the summer political season begins across Canada. Residents from coast to coast will bear witness to the migration of MPs from Parliament Hill to local backyard barbecues, offering handshakes to grown-ups, kisses to babies, and belly rubs to dogs.

Elsewhere in communities – more ubiquitous than giant mosquitoes and glowing fireflies – the summer political season will bring a proliferation of smiling candidates, offering pamphlets, and seeking engagement with the most elusive of species: the undecided voter.

But should such sought-after individuals be located, they are likely to display a significant skepticism towards these politicians.

The latest public opinion survey from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds most Canadians remain suspicious of their intentions.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) say politicians cannot be trusted, and one-third (32%) believe they are primarily motivated by “personal gain” rather than a genuine desire to serve their communities.

Public dissatisfaction with elected officials is most prevalent when discussing federal government. Whereas those who view municipal candidates positively (42%) outnumber those who view them negatively (14%) by a three-to-one margin, the Canadian public is broadly split when it comes to federal candidates.

Moreover, four-in-ten Canadians (38%) feel the quality of federal candidates in their area has worsened in the past five to 10 years, considerably higher than the proportions who say the same of provincial (29%) and municipal (24%) candidates.

More Key Findings:

  • Two-thirds (67%) of Canadians believe it is an advantage for candidates to have previous work experience outside of politics
  • Across all questions canvassed in this survey, political preferences appear to be a strong driver of views. Potential Conservatives are twice as likely as potential New Democrats (40% vs. 21%) and three times more likely than potential Liberals (13%) to say politicians primarily run for office for “personal gain”
  • Canadians are divided (44% agree vs. 47% disagree) on whether women and visible minorities are at a disadvantage when running for office, with gender and partisanship significant drivers of opinion on this issue

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