A new survey of public opinion on immigration shows the number of Canadians holding positive views of immigration grew between April and October.
Since the Environics Institute’s previous Focus Canada survey in April, public disapproval with the statement “overall, there is too much immigration to Canada” rose from 59 per cent to 63 per cent in October — its highest level since 2008.
Just over one-third of Canadians agreed with the statement, 34 per cent, which was unchanged since April.
The Environics Institute interviewed 2,008 Canadians between October 7 and October 20 in advance of Canada’s federal election on October 21.
“A growing majority of Canadians reject the idea that their country is accepting too many immigrants,” the survey found. “This view is due in part because eight in ten believe that immigration is helping Canada’s economy.”
The survey found strengthened support for immigration across most of the country, with noticeable increases in Atlantic Canada, the Prairies and Quebec.
In Atlantic Canada, 71 per cent of respondents disagreed that Canada is taking too many immigrants.
Younger Canadians, women, those with a higher level of education and the more financially secure were the most likely to hold a favourable view of immigration.
The institute said negative opinions of immigration were more widespread among those “concerned about potential job loss in their household.”
Negative opinions were also more evident among supporters of the Conservative Party of Canada, with 51 per cent stating immigration was too high compared to 45 per cent who disagreed.
Supporters of the New Democratic Party were the most likely to hold a positive view of Canada’s immigration levels, with 79 per cent saying there was too much immigration to Canada.
Nearly 3 in 4 Liberals (74 per cent) also expressed support for Canada’s current immigration level, followed by 69 per cent of Green Party supporters and 64 per cent of Bloc Quebecois.
Fully 80 per cent of Canadians agreed with the statement that “overall, immigration has a positive impact on the economy of Canada.”
The Environics Institute said this result matched the highest level recorded over the past 25 years.
Only 16 per cent of respondents disagreed with the statement.
The belief that immigration has a positive economic impact strengthened by seven points since April in Atlantic Canada, where 82 per cent of respondents shared this view.
British Columbia was a close second, with 84 per cent of respondents saying immigration has a positive economic benefit, a view that was shared by just over three-quarters (76 per cent) of respondents in both the Prairies and Alberta.
The majority of supporters of all major federal parties also agreed with this view, ranging from 90 per cent of Liberal voters to 68 per cent of Conservative voters.
Canadians continue to hold concerns about the integration of immigrants into Canadian society, with 50 per cent of all respondents agreeing with the statement that “there are too many immigrants coming into this country who are not adopting Canadian values.”
This result, however, was down one percentage point over April and was the lowest level recorded since the question was first included on Focus Canada surveys in 1993.
Just over 40 per cent of respondents disagreed with the statement.
Ironically, the latest Environics Institute findings show agreement with the statement down six points to 50 per cent in Quebec, where the provincial government announced last week that it would begin imposing a values test on prospective immigrants in January.
“In Quebec … public opinion about immigrants is as positive if not more so than in other parts of the country,” the survey found.
In terms of political party affiliation, Conservative voters were the most likely to hold the view that immigrants were not adopting Canadian values (73 per cent) compared only 36 per cent of Liberal Party supporters and 34 per cent of NDP voters.
Just under 60 per cent of Bloc Quebecois supporters (59 per cent) agreed with the statement, but this was down by eight percentage points over April.
To the statement “Canada accepts too many immigrants from racial minority groups,” 64 per cent of Canadians disagreed.
The Environics Institute noted that those in disagreement were predominantly the same who disagreed that Canada is letting in too many immigrants.
“This reflects a significant shift in public attitudes since the 1990s when a majority of Canadians agreed with the statement,” the institute reported.
The view that Canada accepts too many immigrants from racial minority groups was most evident among respondents without a high school diploma and those with household incomes of under CDN $30,000.
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