Toronto, Ontario, September 21, 2017 — As representatives from Canada, the United States, and Mexico prepare to meet in Ottawa to continue negotiations towards a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a new Ipsos poll administered simultaneously in all “three-amigos” NAFTA-member countries finds Canadians and Mexicans see more benefits from NAFTA than Americans, but Canadians aren’t as optimistic as Mexicans and Americans that the renegotiation will be a good thing. Americans are less likely to believe the current agreement benefits the United States, but are more optimistic that the renegotiation will be a good thing, both of which give the Americans a strong bargaining position.
Support for NAFTA in its present form is far stronger in Mexico (79%) and Canada (74%) than in the United States (58%). Similarly, Canada is tied with Mexico in being the most likely of the three amigos to see benefits for the country as a result of NAFTA: 51% in Canada and Mexico do, compared with 32% of Americans who see benefits for the USA.
Canadians are the least likely to say the renegotiation of the agreement will be a good thing for their country: only one in three (33%) Canadians think it’s a good thing, while Americans (48%) and Mexicans (46%) are far more likely to think renegotiations will be good for them. Conversely, Canadians are most likely (21%) to believe that it will be bad, more than Mexicans (17%) and Americans (11%).
At the same time, given Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s continued popularity, Canadians are feeling confident about the federal government’s ability to do a good job at the table – far more than either Mexicans or Americans feel about their governments’ ability to renegotiate in the best interests of their country. Canadians have the most confidence (59%) in their government’s ability to renegotiate NAFTA in their country’s best interests, well ahead of the Americans (50%) and Mexicans (40%).
What’s interesting is that Americans are the most likely to think that their country has benefitted the most from the agreement – despite their being the least likely to support NAFTA in its current form. Two in ten (17%) Americans believe the USA has benefited the most from NAFTA, compared to just 8% of Mexicans who believe Mexico has benefitted the most and 6% of Canadians who believe that Canada has benefited the most. A majority (64%) of Mexicans believe the USA has benefitted the most. Virtually nobody in Canada (6%), Mexico (5%) or the United States (3%) believes that Canada has benefitted the most.
Other key differences between the three countries include:
- Mexicans are paying the most attention (59%) to the negotiations, more than Canadians (47%) or Americans (44%)
- Mexicans (59%) are more likely than Canadians (57%) and especially Americans (39%) to believe that free trade, in general, has benefitted their country.
- Mexicans are most likely (25%) to believe that NAFTA has benefitted them personally, while fewer Canadians (18%) and Americans (15%) say the same.
- If the negotiations fail, the leading opinion among Mexicans (60%), Canadians (59%) and Americans (50%) is that we should stick with the status quo, with NAFTA continuing to exist as it presently does.
Canadians Support NAFTA, But Few See Personal Benefits
While most Canadians don’t feel a personal connection to NAFTA, support for the agreement and for free trade in general is strong. Three in four Canadians (74%) support Canada being in NAFTA with Mexico and the United States (30% strongly / 44% moderately) – unchanged from July. Only 11% actively oppose Canada’s NAFTA membership (3% strongly / 8% moderately), while 15% aren’t sure (also unchanged). Support for NAFTA is strongest in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (84%), followed by British Columbia (77%), Ontario (74%), Quebec (74%), and Atlantic Canada (73%). Alberta has the lowest level of support for the agreement, at 68%.
A majority of Canadians (64%) see Canada as either benefiting from NAFTA (51%; -5 pts) or not being impacted by it either way (13%; +4 pts), with only one in ten (13%) saying Canada has been hurt by NAFTA (-2 pts from July), and one in four (24%) who aren’t sure (+4 pts). However, few think that Canada has benefited from it the most: only 6% see Canada as being the main beneficiary of NAFTA, while one in three (34%) think the US has benefited most, and 16% think the same about Mexico. A further one in three (34%) say all three countries have benefited equally, while the remaining 10% say that none of them has drawn any benefit. Albertans (47%) are the most likely to name the US as NAFTA’s main beneficiary.
The view that NAFTA benefits Canada is consistent with Canadians’ broad support for free trade overall: a majority (74%) think that free trade between Canada and foreign countries more generally has either helped Canada (57%) or not made much of a difference (17%), leaving only 11% who say it’s hurt the country and a further 14% who don’t know either way.
Renegotiations and Beyond
When it comes to the ongoing renegotiations, most Canadians have heard about them to some extent: only 11% say they’ve heard nothing at all about the talks. Nearly half (47%) are more familiar, having heard either a great deal (10%) or a fair amount (37%) about them. Awareness of the renegotiations is strongest in Quebec, where six in ten (61%) have heard about them, while elsewhere half or less aware: 52% in BC, 42% in Ontario, 42% in the Prairies, 39% in Alberta, and 35% in Atlantic Canada.
There is uncertainty as to whether the talks will be a good or bad thing for Canada: one in three (33%) say renegotiating NAFTA will be good for Canada (-4 pts), two in ten (20%) say it’s bad (-1 pt), a further two in ten (17%) say it won’t make any difference (+1pt), and three in ten (30%) aren’t sure (+5 pts). Concerns about the impact of the negotiations are strongest in Western Canada and Quebec: in Alberta, three in ten (29%) say that renegotiating NAFTA will be a bad thing for Canada, as do 26% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 25% in BC, and 23% in Quebec. By contrast, only 18% of Atlantic Canadians and 15% of Ontarians feel the same.
This uncertainty may be due in part to how remote many Canadians feels NAFTA is from their own lives. Despite broad support for the agreement, only 18% of Canadians feel NAFTA has benefited them personally, while three in four (73%) say it hasn’t affected them, and a small number (9%) say it’s had a negative effect.
Regardless of their impact on the country, a majority think the NAFTA renegotiations will be handled successfully by the federal Liberals. Six in ten (59%) say they’re confident (12% very / 47% somewhat) in the Liberal government’s ability to renegotiate NAFTA in the best interests of Canadians (-2 pts). Conversely, four in ten (41%; +2 pts) aren’t confident (15% not at all / 26% not very). Confidence in the Liberals’ ability to renegotiate NAFTA in Canadians’ best interest is, predictably, strongest in regions where the party has more support; Quebec is in the lead with 66% who are confident, followed by BC (63%), Atlantic Canada (62%), Ontario (57%), Saskatchewan and Manitoba (51%), and Alberta (43%).
In the event that the NAFTA renegotiations fail, most Canadians want to maintain the status quo – unsurprising, given their majority support for the agreement. Six in ten (59%) say they’d prefer NAFTA to continue to exist as it is now, allowing free trade between the three countries under the existing conditions. Only one in ten Canadians (11%) would prefer NAFTA to be dismantled entirely, with no free trade between Canada, the US and Mexico. Three in ten (30%) don’t know either way.
At the regional level, those who support NAFTA the most are also the most inclined to want to keep it in place if the current renegotiations fail. More than three in four (77%) Saskatchewan and Manitoba residents say NAFTA should continue to exist as it is now if the talks fail – significantly ahead of any other province. By contrast, other Canadians are significantly more likely to say they would prefer to see NAFTA dismantled entirely, in the event of the talks failing: two in ten Albertans (18%) would prefer this outcome, as would one in ten Quebecers (12%), Ontarians (11%), British Columbians (8%), and Atlantic Canadians (8%). Only 1% of Prairie residents feel the same.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between September 12 and September 14, 2017. For this survey, a sample of 1,001 Canadians aged 18+ from Ipsos' online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
For more information on this news release, please contact:
Darrell Bricker, PhD
Ipsos Global Public Affairs
+1 416 324-2001
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