Most Canadians oppose protests, but many sympathize with frustration: Poll

A new survey finds almost two-thirds of Canadians disagree with protests against COVID-19 measures, with almost half saying they strongly oppose the ongoing demonstrations.

However, more than 30 per cent of respondents to the recent Leger poll expressed support for protesters and nearly half of respondents (44 per cent) said they sympathize with the frustrations being voiced by the protesters.

The executive vice-president of Leger Andrew Enns says the survey highlights the extent of divisions within Canada, suggesting the protesters might have tapped into broader concerns than just the grievances of a small minority. He says the number of people who support the protests might be a little higher than most would expect.

“We think of that anti-vax crowd, that fringe crowd, of being in that 10 or 11 per cent,” Enns said. “Thirty-two per cent is a little bit broader and stretches a little bit deeper into the mainstream population.”

Support for the protesters message

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The protest that has taken over downtown Ottawa is entering its 12th day on Tuesday and offshoots of the rally in the nation’s capital have popped up in cities across the country over the last two weeks. What was initially sparked as a protest against vaccine mandates for truckers has morphed into a rally against all COVID-19 health mandates.

Enns says the higher than expected number of those who support the protests can likely be attributed to pandemic fatigue in general instead of specific vaccine mandates.

“Sure, the unvaccinated are almost 100 per cent in support of the protest, but over a quarter of people who are fully vaccinated are supporting the protest,” said Enns. “That sort of tells me that there is more of a tiredness and a bit of the feeling that the government message of following the rules is starting to wear a little thin.”

The survey highlighted a generational gap that Enns says is consistent with polls conducted throughout the pandemic. People 18 to 34 are more likely to support the demonstrations and with those 55 and older most likely to be opposed.

“That tiredness of the restrictions and lockdowns is certainly stronger in the younger adult population in Canada,” Enns said.

Support for the convoy’s message

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Survey respondents in Alberta were the most likely to have support for the convoy protest (40 per cent), while those in B.C. were most likely to oppose (65 per cent).

Two-thirds of respondents agreed with the idea of the convoy being a small minority of Canadians who are acting selfishly. More than half of respondents said they think the convoy is not about vaccine mandates at all, but “an opportunity for right-wing supremacist groups to rally and voice their frustrations about society.”

Just over half of Canadians say they find the convoy “scary” because it reminds them of the storming of the U.S. capitol building in Washington last year.

But, 44 per cent say they “sympathize with the concerns and frustrations” of the demonstrators despite being vaccinated against COVID-19 themselves.

The online poll sampled more than 1,500 Canadians from across the country between Feb. 4 and Feb. 6.

Agreement with statements about the Convoy

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Protests against COVID-19 vaccine mandates have severely immobilized Ottawa for more than a week. Ottawa declared a state of emergency on Sunday, and the city’s mayor, Jim Watson, asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to supply 1,800 law-enforcement officers “to quell the insurrection that the Ottawa Police Service is not able to contain.”

Trudeau once again condemned the actions of protesters during an emergency debate at the House of Commons on Monday, saying that protest are not the way to get through the pandemic.

The protests have left many downtown Ottawa residents frustrated with the noise and constant traffic disruptions. Ontario Superior Court Justice granted a 10-day injunction on Monday that would prevent truckers parked on city streets from honking their horns incessantly.

Ottawa’s city council voted in favour of calling for Premier Doug Ford to enact legislation that would allow the government to charge protesters for some of the high costs the city has incurred during the ongoing demonstrations.

With files from the Canadian Press

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