This year, Saskatchewan will hold a provincial election and there are plenty of rumours suggesting that British Columbia will consider having an early one as well.
Most of the political attention from Canadians is expected to focus on four leadership races – the provincial Liberals in Ontario and Quebec, and the Conservatives and Greens at the federal level.
In any case, the apparent stability of the federal government in Ottawa makes it more likely that reporting of a single democratic process – the U.S. presidential election – will dominate from February to November.
Some Canadians may hate paying attention to what our neighbour to the south does, but it has been pretty difficult to read, listen to or watch news without some mention of Washington.
We saw Canadian national newscasts – all three of them, regardless of which one you prefer to watch – making a U.S. Supreme Court nomination process their top story for a few consecutive days. Talk of impeachment, which has only been observed twice in Canada since television reached or homes, has also been a fixture of Canada’s “national” news.
From the time Donald Trump began to be mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for the Republican Party, my research outlined that Canadians were extremely dissatisfied with this prospect, with a proportion of pessimists that ballooned in British Columbia.
In June 2019, Research Co. looked at the way Canadians were relating to now-President Trump and found more despair. This month, we chose to conduct a follow-up as Trump awaits the third anniversary of his scarcely attended inauguration.
There is a bit of a silver lining for Trump supporters, as the proportion of Canadians who think the 45th American President has performed “better than they expected” has doubled: from 8% to 16%. This still leaves three in 10 Canadians (31%) who think Trump has been who they thought he would be and 44% (up four points in seven months) who believe the current White House dweller has been worse than they originally envisioned.
Canadians aged 55 and over are decidedly more critical of Trump, with 59% saying he has been worse than expected, compared to 40% among those aged 35 to 54 and 31% among those aged 18 to 34. Practically half of Ontarians (48%) believe Trump has been inferior to their earliest predictions.
There is one area where criticism from Canadians is particularly harsh. If seven months ago, just over a third of Canadians (37%) felt Trump had accomplished little as president, the proportion has increased by 17 points to 54%. This means that a majority of Canadians, who have been exposed to coverage about the U.S. president like no one else before him, issue a collective “meh” when pondering what the former real estate entrepreneur has achieved since January 2017.
Still, 16% of Canadians think it is too early to judge Trump’s accomplishments (down 23 points since June 2019) and a further 16% who believe Trump has done much as president – a proportion that jumps to 24% in Alberta and 30% among Conservative Party voters in the 2019 Canadian federal election.
Finally, the proportion of Canadians who believe having Trump as president has been “very good” or “good” for Canada jumped slightly, from 17% in June 2019 to 21% this month. This still leaves more than three in five Canadians (62%) who believe the current American head of state has been “bad” or “very bad” for Canada.
While the level of undecideds did not fluctuate from last year (18% on both surveys), the biggest change is how many Canadians now feel Trump has been “very bad” for Canada. In June 2019, it was 15%. Now, it has practically doubled (29%).
Canadians who voted for the Conservatives in 2019 are less likely to look at Trump as a “bad” president for Canada (45%) than those who supported the Liberal Party (68%) or the New Democratic Party (NDP) (75%) in last year’s ballot.
Whether we like it or not, news coverage in Canada will continue to include a long look at the United States over the next 10 months. At this stage, it is fair to say that Canadians are unimpressed by Donald Trump. A majority of Canadians to deem him “bad” for Canada and believe he has accomplished little as president.
Trump may take solace in the fact that more than two in five Canadians feel he has been “just like advertised.” This might actually represent a badge of honour for America’s first reality TV commander-in-chief.
Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.
Results are based on an online study conducted January 6–9, 2020, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.