Did the poll really find ”hardened” attitudes toward aboriginal Canadians?


Poll_hardened_160113

(c) Oiwi TV.

That’s what the headline on the Globe and Mail website said on Wednesday, and that was also the lead of the news release on the Ipsos-Reid website:

“Last week’s protests by First Nations activists appear to have had a hardening effect on Canadian public opinion regarding Aboriginal issues, according to a new poll conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of the National Post/Postmedia News and Global Television.”

I know very little about polling but when I read through the release, I started to wonder about that lead. Here’s what I found:

1 result that found attitudes had hardened compared to earlier responses to the same question:
•    “Most of the problems of native peoples are brought on by themselves (60% nationally, up 25 points from 35% in 1989.”

3 results that found attitudes unchanged or softened:
•    “While there’s general support for resolving land claims to provide Aboriginal Peoples with the land and resources needed to become self-sufficient (63%) and for the federal government to act now to raise the quality of life for Aboriginal peoples (63%, unchanged from July 2010).”
•    “Canada’s Aboriginal peoples receive too much support from Canadian taxpayers. Two thirds (64%) nationally share this view — unchanged from July 2012.”
•    “Canada’s Aboriginal peoples are treated well by the Canadian Government. Two thirds (62%) nationally share this sentiment, down from 66% in July 2012.”

The news release also noted that 51% of those questioned approved how First Nations leaders had dealt with issues during the past week. Approval for Prime Minister Stephen Harper over the same period was at 46%.

All of this does not seem to add up to a “hardening” of attitudes.

Yes, the poll did find that 81% of respondents agreed that “No additional taxpayer money should go to any Reserve until external auditors can be put in place to ensure financial accountability,” but there was no previous result to compare that finding to.

In any case, equating support for better financial management on reserves with a “hardening” of attitudes towards aboriginal people seems to be an exaggeration, particularly in contrast with this result: 63% supported the statement: “The Federal government must act now to help raise the quality of life of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.

And perhaps this one: “However, if roads and railways are shut down due to protest, most Canadians (59%) would want the police to back off and let things cool down as opposed to moving in to arrest the protestors.”

A quick note on some media coverage:

  • The Globe’s headline stuck close to the Ipsos lead – Canadians’ attitudes hardening on aboriginal issues: new poll
  • Canada.com stuck to a finding, not extrapolation – Canadians worried about accountability on First Nations reserves, exclusive polls shows
  • The Calgary Herald (online) concluded, Idle No More protests gain little support, according to survey. But is more than one-third of Canadians really “little”?
  • Canadian public opinion set against First Nations protesters, said Sunnewsnetwork.ca. But is this a valid inference just because only 38% of those polled signaled approval?
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