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More Than Half Of Canadians Feel 'Most Politicians' Can't Be Trusted: Angus Reid Institute Poll

But running for office isn't necessarily seen as a bad thing.
Members of the House of Commons pose for a photo in the chamber before question period in the House of Commons on Dec. 12, 2018.
Members of the House of Commons pose for a photo in the chamber before question period in the House of Commons on Dec. 12, 2018.

Members of Parliament and those hoping to be elected will have to break through a wall of skepticism to win over prospective voters during the critical pre-election season, a new poll suggests.

An Angus Reid Institute survey, released Monday, found that 64 per cent of respondents believe most politicians can’t be trusted. Twenty-eight per cent disagreed with that notion, while eight per cent said they weren’t sure.

Watch: Tories, Liberals exchange heckles during raucous question period. Story continues below.

This cynicism is strongest among respondents in Ontario and Alberta, where 68 and 67 per cent, respectively, said they didn’t trust most politicians.

Atlantic Canada gave politicians the biggest benefit of the doubt, with 38 per cent disagreeing with the idea that politicians are dubious. That said, a majority of respondents from the region (56 per cent) agreed with the notion.

Breaking down the results across party lines, the polling firm found this lack of trust to be strongest among prospective Conservative supporters. Seventy-one per cent of respondents in that camp said they don’t trust politicians.

Many feel politicians are in it for themselves

The Angus Reid Institute also found that almost one-in-three Canadians believe politicians are self-serving.

Thirty-two per cent believe they run for office for “personal gain,” while 18 per cent said it was to serve their communities. Half of respondents, however, believe that an equal number of politicians do it for both reasons.

Again, when the results are filtered through party preferences, prospective Tory supporters come out as the most skeptical.

Forty per cent in that group think those who run for office do it to benefit themselves, twice as likely as prospective NDP voters (21 per cent) and three times more likely than potential Liberal voters (13 per cent).

Non-political experience seen as an advantage

The Angus Reid Institute also surveyed Canadians on politicians’ job experience outside of politics.

To a majority (67 per cent), having a job or career that has nothing to do with politics is an advantage.

Just four per cent said non-political jobs or careers are a disadvantage, and 18 per cent said it makes no difference.

This perhaps can explain why many in politics go to great lengths to paint themselves as the Average Joe/Joanne and blast their rivals as “career politicians” who are part of the “establishment.”

The hits don’t stop there. The polling firm found that this cynicism toward politicians also extends to their parties.

More than 60 per cent of respondents said they believe political parties have too much influence in Canada. Majorities across party lines agreed with this notion.

But running for office is not necessarily seen as a bad thing in the eyes of the survey’s respondents.

Thirty-two per cent said they have a positive opinion of those who aspire for a spot in the House of Commons, while 40 per cent said it’s neither positive nor negative.

That said, aspiring politicians gunning for municipal or provincial seats seem to be seen more favourably.

The Angus Reid Institute’s survey was conducted online from May 7 – 10, 2019, among a representative randomized sample of 1,921 Canadian adults. A similar poll with probability samples of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 and plus or minus 4.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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