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Economic anxiety high, faith in political leaders low in Canada, survey suggests



Canadians are grappling with economic worries, and their trust in political leaders and institutions is at a low point, according to the latest CanTrust Index by Proof Strategies. The annual survey delves into Canadians' trust levels in various sectors, and this year's findings indicate a surge in anxiety related to the economy, surpassing even the concerns prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.


The 2024 CanTrust Index, revealing heightened levels of stress and anxiety, has raised eyebrows. Bruce MacLellan, the chair of Proof Strategies, expressed surprise at the extent of anxiety, noting that two-thirds of Canadians are currently experiencing stress. Economic concerns, such as the fear of a recession or unemployment, have taken precedence and overshadowed the lingering effects of the pandemic.


The survey disclosed a gender disparity, with women reporting higher economic anxiety levels and lower confidence in the healthcare system and Canada's democracy compared to men. Nearly three in four women surveyed attributed increased anxiety and stress to the economy, a sentiment shared by fewer than three in five men.


MacLellan emphasized the significance of the "values question," which evaluates respondents' perception of Canada's core values. For women, confidence in Canada living up to its values has declined across the board.


Political leaders are not immune to the erosion of trust. The survey suggests a decline in faith in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the past year, with only 25% of respondents believing he would do right by Canadians, down from 36% a year ago. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland cited concerns about the cost of living and housing as contributors to the government's declining approval in polls.


Opposition leaders, including Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, also faced a lack of public confidence, with only about 32% trusting them to make the right decisions. Overall, trust in politicians reached a meager 17%, signaling a warning for those seeking public support.


The survey extended to confidence in government entities to address key issues. Less than one in four participants believed any level of government could resolve the affordable housing crisis. Trust in provinces for education and public health stood at 47% and 44%, respectively.


Despite widespread skepticism, a few sectors saw an improvement in trust. Hockey Canada, for instance, experienced an increase in trust from 30% to 41% following a tumultuous period. The news media also fared relatively well, with 56% expressing trust in traditional media and 49% in journalists. While trust in these institutions lagged behind that in doctors, scientists, and teachers, it surpassed trust in bankers and religious leaders.


Bruce MacLellan acknowledged the challenging trust landscape, attributing it to polarized politics, economic stress, and deliberate misinformation. Despite these challenges, he found encouragement in the sustained trust in the news media and growing confidence in experts such as scientists and doctors.


The CanTrust Index, conducted through online surveys with 1,501 Canadian adults between Jan. 3 and Jan. 13, provides valuable insights into the prevailing sentiments of the Canadian public.


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