Perception Vs. Reality? Canadians Believe They’re Leading the Way on Refugee Support, But They’re Actually at the Back of the Pack

64% of Canadians support accepting more Ukrainian refugees

The author(s)

  • Haley Jones Account Manager, Public Affairs
  • Sanyam Sethi Vice President, Ipsos Public Affairs
Get in touch

Toronto, ON July 6, 2022 — Canada has a reputation as a country welcoming to newcomers and refugees. But how much of this reputation is based in reality? A new global Ipsos study, carried out to mark World Refugee Day 2022, paints a complex picture of how the world perceives Canada’s role in supporting refugees, and how Canadians view their own efforts.

The latest Ipsos Global Advisor research asked respondents across 28 countries to name the top three nations that took in the largest number of refugees in the world (before the Ukraine conflict). The results show an important perception gap. Nearly half (46%) of Canadians believe their country falls in the top three refugee host nations, while one in ten (12%) globally believe Canada is a top-three refugee host. How surprised would these people be to know that Canada in fact ranks 34th in the world as a host country for refugees, well behind the top-three countries of Turkey, Colombia, and the United States?

It’s not just Canadians who are looking through rose-coloured glasses; the data shows that people tend to believe their own country has taken a leading role in hosting refugees, with a third (33%) of all respondents worldwide selecting their country as one of the top three. This suggests that not only are people more likely to think their own country is doing more than they actually are to host refugees, but that this inward-looking view is leading many to overlook the countries that actually are taking on the largest responsibility. Only 15% of respondents across the 28 polled countries highlighted Turkey as the main host nation, and only 5% recognized Colombia. Turks, on the other hand, are in fact aware of their country’s commitment with 77% of Turkish residents marking Turkey as one of the top three nations to host the most refugees.


Refugee Home Country Influences Whether Canadians Roll Out the Welcome Mat

Four in ten Canadians (41%) support accepting more refugees from anywhere in the world, suggesting an overall willingness to assist asylum seekers. However, a closer look shows that support for welcoming refugees is dependent on which country they are from.

Amidst the ongoing conflict, 64% of Canadians support accepting more Ukrainian refugees into Canada. But attitudes shift when considering refugees from other nations: 37% of Canadians would support accepting more Afghani refugees, 27 points lower than the support shown for Ukrainian refugees. Similarly, support falls further to 36% when considering refugees from Venezuela, and to 35% when viewing refugees from Syria. Only 33% of Canadians would support accepting more refugees from Myanmar or South Sudan. The data tells us that Canadians are twice as likely to support accepting Ukrainian refugees than some other nations like South Sudan or Myanmar, suggesting that while the war in Ukraine may have softened attitudes toward refugees, other considerations may be affecting views towards refugees from other countries.


Whose Responsibility is it to Host Refugees?

A third (33%) of Canadians believe that all countries have a responsibility to help refugees around the world. Fewer Canadians are willing to state that the responsibility to host refugees lies with countries in the region where refugees originate (11%), or that no countries should be responsible for hosting refugees (6%).

But how does a country’s wealth play into perceptions of where refugees should be hosted? Three in ten Canadians (30%) state that the wealthiest countries in the world should collectively have the greatest responsibility for helping refugees. Interestingly, the data shows that lower-income nations are more likely to assign responsibility to wealthier countries for helping refugees, while wealthier countries are less likely to share this sentiment.

Some of the wealthiest nations in the world including the United States, China, Japan, and Germany are least likely to agree that wealthy countries have the greatest role to play in supporting refugees (United States 21%, China 25%, Japan 13%, Germany 26%). Contrastingly, countries with less wealth but that are currently hosting more refugees are more likely to agree that wealthier countries should take more responsibility (Columbia 42%, Turkey 41%). Overall, the data shows that there is widespread recognition that support for refugees is an international responsibility, but there is disagreement as to which countries should be responsible.


About the Study

These are the results of a 28-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 20,505 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, and 16-74 in 23 other countries between Friday, April 22 and Friday, May 6, 2022.

The sample consists of approximately 1,000 individuals in each of Australia, Brazil, Canada, mainland China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the U.S., and 500 individuals in each of Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.S. can be taken as representative of their general adult population under the age of 75.

The samples in Brazil, Chile, mainland China, Colombia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey are more urban, more educated, and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for these countries should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of their population.

The data is weighted so that each country’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data.

“The Global Country Average” reflects the average results for all the countries where the survey was conducted. It has not been adjusted to the population size of each country and is not intended to suggest a total result.

Where results do not sum to 100 or the “difference” appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don’t know” or not stated responses.

The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/-3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points. For more information on Ipsos’ use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.

The publication of these findings abides by local rules and regulations.


For more information on this news release, please contact:

Sanyam Sethi
Vice President, Public Affairs, Canada
[email protected]

Haley Jones
Senior Account Manager, Public Affairs, Canada
[email protected]


About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest Insights and Analytics company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP

The author(s)

  • Haley Jones Account Manager, Public Affairs
  • Sanyam Sethi Vice President, Ipsos Public Affairs