USask survey shows prairie residents believe Canada became more polarized in 2021

Herald File Photo

COVID-19 and the 2021 federal election were the two biggest issues that divided the country this past year, according to Canadians.

75% of national respondents and 83% of Prairie respondents have said the country has become more polarized over the past year.

However, Prairie residents are far more likely than other Canadians to believe that the fight against climate change and the ban on assault weapons are the main issues causing disunity. 

The findings were taken from Taking the Pulse of Canada, a quarterly national survey conducted by the University of Saskatchewan’s (CHASR) Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research. 1,011 Canadians were contacted via landline and cellphone between March 7th and March 24th.

Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba are counted together to get a statistically valid sample nationally.

“They key issue is not whether the divide among Canadians is real or perceived,” said CHASR director Jason Disano. “Just the fact that people perceive that we are becoming more divided in Saskatchewan and in Canada is a major concern that those in government and policy need to be attuned to”. 

Survey results also found that more than 55% of respondents nationally believe providing international aid is an issue that united Canada. 

Disano said this response likely was influenced by the federal government’s high-profile promotion of its contributions to help Ukraine in Russia’s war against the country.

“Now more than ever, we are seeing politicians using that division for political benefit when those leaders should be seeking to unite us, not divide us”, said Disano.

40% of respondents nationally said they had reduced contact with loved ones over differing views and disagreements over COVID-19 predominating. The figure is closer to 50% for the Prairies and British Columbia. Those over 55 are less likely to reduce contact over  differences of opinion.

Prairie provinces and the Atlantic region are more likely to say that the Canadian-American relationship divides Canadians.