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Poll: Canadians see Biden taking climate action and want Canada to keep pace to stay competitive

This survey is part of a four-part series. View the other three posts herehere and here.

In the latest round of survey work by Clean Energy Canada and Abacus Data, two out of three people in Canada believe that President-elect Biden will follow through on his promise to make climate change a major priority, including two out of three people in Canada’s leading oil producing province, Alberta.

When asked whether they believe that Biden’s effort to reduce emissions will make America’s economy weaker or stronger, the results may surprise: for every person who feels America will lose ground economically (19%), two believe it will gain (40%). In total, 81% think a drive to reduce emissions will not harm the U.S. economy. 

The consensus that America can reduce emissions without harming its economy is broad, includes all regions of the country, and cuts across all generations. While the debate in Canada has had strong regional and political cleavages in the past, these seem more muted now.

  • Only 30% of Albertans believe a climate push will hurt America’s economy, while an equal number think it will add strength (31%), and the rest think the economic impact will be neutral.
  • While one in three Conservative voters (33%) think a Biden climate push will weaken America’s economy, a quarter (24%) think America will be stronger as a result, and 42% see no significant impact. Supporters of other parties are considerably more likely to say cutting emissions will strengthen America’s economy.

The question of how Canadian policy should tack based on Mr. Biden’s anticipated approach is topical right now. When told of Biden’s stated intent to invest very significantly in clean energy projects, respondents are clearly of the view that Canada should follow the same path. 

Three out of four (77%) want Canada “to move our economy at a similar pace towards clean energy so we don’t become uncompetitive with the U.S. economy” rather than to assume America’s economy will be weakened by a shift to cleaner energy and that we should move more slowly to gain an economic advantage (23%). 

This preference to move in step with America is the majority view in every part of the country, including Alberta (65%). It is also the view of a majority of supporters of all political parties, including 59% of Conservatives.

QUOTES

“For most Canadians, who welcomed the election of Joe Biden, his climate agenda will be seen as a positive for the future of the planet. But what is most interesting in these numbers is the fact that public opinion has crossed a tipping point—people now believe that an economy which shifts its approach towards cleaner energy won’t be adding costs and losing competitiveness—they are more likely to believe that it will have a positive economic effect.    

“The second major finding here is that Canadians, including most Albertans and most Conservatives, believe Canada must shift in this direction in order to remain competitive with the U.S. and not be left behind. For politicians and policy makers we are now much more squarely in a world where people want to discuss the how, not the whether, of an energy transition and the fight against climate change.”

—Bruce Anderson, Chairman, Abacus Data

“Canadians don’t want to be left behind, which means keeping tabs on our friends around the world. With a Biden presidency kicking off the new year and game-changing clean stimulus plans from countries like Germany, the U.K., and South Korea, it’s clear that Canada must work to keep up in what might be the world’s most competitive—and economically critical—race. It’s also clear that Canadians understand what’s happening globally, and that few wish to place their bets on old ways of doing things.”

—Merran Smith, Executive Director, Clean Energy Canada

The survey was conducted with 1,419 Canadian adults from November 26 to December 1, 2020. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.
 
The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.6%, 19 times out of 20.
 
The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

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