Most Canadians say immigration makes Canada a better country: study

Shelby Thevenot
Published: October 19, 2020

Canadians have become more accepting of immigrants over the past year, a new study finds.

More Canadians are comfortable with current immigration levels, they see immigrants as good for the economy and not a threat to Canadian jobs, and they believe that immigration is essential to growing the country's population.

These findings come from a recent public opinion survey out of the Environics Institute, a non-profit organization that promotes original social research on issues of public policy and social change. The survey was based on telephone interviews with 2,000 Canadians between September 8 and 23, 2020. Results are accurate to within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points in 19 out of 20 samples, the report says.

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Survey results reveal a plurality of Canadians reject the idea that too many refugees are not legitimate, and that too many immigrants are not adopting Canadian values. By a five-to-one margin, Canadians believe that immigration makes Canada a better country, and they are most likely to say this is because it makes for a more diverse and multicultural place to live.

"Perhaps the most striking aspect of this latest trend is that it has taken place all across the country and among all demographic segments of the population," the report says.

Most Canadians disagree that immigration levels are too high

Two thirds, or 66 per cent, of Canadians reject the idea that immigration levels are too high. This figure is up 3 per cent from the same time last year, and an all-time high for available data dating back to 1977.

Attitudes toward immigration levels are becoming more positive in almost every segment of the population. The shift in opinion is most noticeable among Albertans, people with lower household incomes, and first generation Canadians. Positive views of immigration levels is most widespread in Atlantic Canada, and Canadians who have high levels of education and income. This survey also found that there is less of a gap in public opinion by age as 66 per cent of Canadians ages 18 to 24 disagree that immigration levels are too high, which is down 7 per cent. However, 67 per cent of Canadians age 45 and over disagree with the statement, up 8 percentage points.

Half of Canadians agree immigration needed for population growth

More than 56 per cent of respondents agree that Canada needs more immigration to increase its population.

About 36 per cent of the population disagrees and 7 per cent have no clear opinion.

These opinions co-relate with opinions on current immigration levels. About 70 per cent of people in Atlantic Canada agreed with the statement, 66 per cent of educated and high-income Canadians, 71 per cent of first generation Canadians, 66 per cent of radicalized people, 67 per cent of Federal Liberal Party supporters, and 64 per cent of NDP supporters.

Most Canadians agree immigration is positive for the economy

The large majority of Canadians, 84 per cent, agree that the economic impact of immigration is positive. This is four points up from October 2019, and the highest recorded level since 1993.

Furthermore, about 78 per cent of Canadians disagree that immigrants take away jobs from other Canadians.

The survey suggests that the reason behind the growing support for immigration may be in part a response to the pandemic, or a reaction to political instability in the U.S. Seven in ten (71 per cent) Canadians say they are in favour of Canada taking in skilled immigrants who are denied entry into the U.S.

"And it may reflect a solidifying public consensus that Canada’s economy (and one’s own livelihood) depends on making space for newcomers, especially this year when the economy needs all the help it can get," the report says.

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