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Canada only getting more polarized between haves and have-nots, survey shows

Canada only getting more polarized between haves and have-nots, survey shows
Canada
VANCOUVER—Canadians are becoming more polarized, as the gap in trust levels between the haves and the have-nots is now among the largest in the world, according to a global survey by Edelman.

Respondents who were “college-educated” and whose household income ranked within the top 25 per cent are much more trusting of the government, big business, the media and non-governmental organizations, according to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer Survey.

Supporters stand along the side of Highway 1 in Saskatchewan during the United We Roll convoy to Ottawa on Thursday. Mass demonstrations even within the past week show the incredibly wide range of people who feel the country’s institutions have failed them.  (Codie McLachlan / Star Edmonton)

Nearly three in four people in this so-called “informed public” group in Canada said they trust large institutions. In contrast, only half of respondents who don’t fit that group, the “mass population,” said they trust those institutions.

“There is a lot of fears about job loss, about automation, about trade policies or tariffs for the companies they work for. There is a lot of uncertainty for them … and pessimism about where they are going in the future,” said Bridgette Anderson, general manager at Edelman Vancouver.

That 20 point gap — between 74 per cent for the “informed public” and 54 per cent in “mass population” — is the largest in Canada since 2012, when Edelman started including the “mass population” in its surveys.

“Originally, the study was done only among the ... informed public,” a spokesperson at Edelman confirmed in an email.

Edelman’s analysts began paying special attention to respondents’ income and education levels because it was clear there was tension building between the “haves and the have-nots,” said Anderson.

Mass demonstrations even within the past week — from the yellow-vest convoy travelling from Alberta to Ottawa, to the Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls — show the incredibly wide range of people who feel the country’s institutions have failed them.

In Edelman’s most recent survey conducted in the fall of 2018, only the United Kingdom had more trust inequality between the “informed public” and “mass population” than Canada. About 33,000 people in 27 countries were surveyed, including 1,500 Canadians, resulting in a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent.

The lack of trust among people in the so-called mass population — which makes up 84 per cent of the global population, according to an Edelman spokesperson — means businesses are under growing pressure to show leadership on issues ranging from climate change to prejudice to job training, said Anderson.

Nearly four in five (79 per cent) of Canadians said CEOs “should take a lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it,” according to the survey.

“People are saying they want leadership on these issues and they expect their employers will do that and they want to work for an employer that shares those values,” said Anderson.

The survey also found there is growing concern about “fake news being used as a weapon,” with 71 per cent of respondents agreeing with that statement, a six-point increase compared to the year before.

Overall, Canadians are engaging with news stories more than before and more people are turning to traditional media as a trusted news source than before. In Edelman’s 2017 report, only 58 per cent of Canadian respondents said they trust traditional media, compared to this year’s report, in which that number jumped to 71 per cent.
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