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Democracy in North America: Survey reveals significant segments in Canada, and U.S. are open to authoritarian leadership

'Age, isolation, and disillusionment with government contribute to anti-democratic sentiments.'

Published 11/09/2022 | By Guelph Now News - Angus Reid Institute Study

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Could some of us actually believe authoritarianism is an option?

Survey reveals significant segments in Canada, U.S. open to authoritarian leadership

Canada - November 7, 2022 – With mid-term elections looming in the U.S. and Canadians learning new details daily about the circumstances that led to the first-ever use of the Emergencies Act, people on both sides of the border are steeped in conversations – and often, heated debates – about democracy, systems of government, and rule of law.

Against this backdrop, a cross-border study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds Canadians still mostly fond of the democratic political system, but with a significant minority showing enthusiasm for non-representative forms of government. This sentiment is even more pronounced in the United States.

Overall, the vast majority in Canada – 86 per cent – say a democratic political system is a good way to govern, while six per cent disagree, and eight per cent are not sure. In the United States, just two thirds (64%) say the same of democracy while one-in-five (19%) say this is a bad form of government, and 17 per cent are unsure.

When it comes to the idea of authoritarian leadership – having a strong leader who does not bother with parliament (congress in the U.S.) or elections – 16 per cent in Canada say this would be good or great, while 12 per cent are unsure. In the U.S., 15 per cent are unsure and 23 per cent are enthusiastic about the idea of strong leader who does not bother with elections. This adds up to 27 per cent of Canadians and 38 per cent of Americans who do not reject the idea of authoritarianism for their country.

Disenchantment with government drives such views. In Canada, among those who feel they are unable to have a real influence on the political decisions made around them, enthusiasm for this authoritarian concept rises to 19 per cent, with 11 per cent unsure. South of the border, three-in-ten (28%) of those expressing this helplessness show a fondness for authoritarianism, while another 12 per cent do not reject it.

More Key Findings:

  • A majority of Canadians (56%) say they don’t trust government in general to act in their best interests. This proportion has increased from 47 per cent when asked in 2016. In the United States, distrust rises to seven-in-ten (72%).
  • Two-thirds of Canadians (64%) say they don’t believe they can influence political decisions that influence their life. This sentiment is much more common among men aged 18 to 34 (77%) than other demographics.
  • In Canada, 18- to 34-year-old men are three times as likely as any other demographic to say, “some countries are better off with authoritarian rule”.
  • Belief in the superiority of democracy over authoritarianism is consistent across political lines: at least nine-in-ten past CPC, Liberal, NDP and BQ voters say democracy is always better than authoritarianism.
  • Socially isolated Canadians show less faith in the government and more disenchantment with the system. More than three-in-five (63%) of the most socially isolated Canadians say they do not trust in the government to act in their best interest. Half (49%) of the most socially connected Canadians say the same.

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