Monday, April 03, 2006

Only one-third of Canadians feel will of the people rules, poll finds - Globe & Mail

Monday, April 3, 2006 Page A8

Just 36 per cent of Canadians say the country is governed by the will of the people, according to a massive new poll that gauged attitudes in 68 countries on issues ranging from poverty to the environment.

While Canada fares better than most countries on measures of democracy, the low figure is partly because the survey was conducted last May and June while the Gomery inquiry was hearing testimony, said Jean-Marc Léger, president of Leger Marketing, which conducted the poll in Canada.

"The Gomery commission had a huge impact," he said.

The survey, which is billed as the largest poll around the world, also found that only 66 per cent of Canadian respondents believed elections here are free and fair. And 12 per cent disagreed that democracy is the best system of government.

Over all, 26 per cent of the poll's 53,749 respondents said the most important problem facing the world was poverty, more than twice those who chose terrorism, at 12 per cent. Canadians' top pick was also poverty, but the environment was seen as the second-greatest challenge. Eight per cent of Canadians chose wars and conflicts. Six per cent said terrorism.

"Everywhere in the world, the main problem is the same. The main problem is not terrorism, the main problem is the gap between the rich and poor people," Mr. Léger said. "That means that on this planet, people think the same way."

The survey's more than 5,000 questioners used a variety of methodological techniques -- phone surveys in Switzerland, self-completed questionnaires in Japan, in-person interviews in Kenya -- to deal with cultural differences.

Outside Canada, respondents were polled by members of the Gallup International Association. The results are published in a book called Voice of the People 2006, which was edited by Mr. Léger.

Collecting the information was often challenging. Interviewers were jailed for 48 hours in Nairobi, Kenya, because they failed to obtain permission from local authorities. Others had a car accident on their way to a remote village in Cameroon.

In Nigeria alone, where there are more than 200 different ethnic groups, the questionnaire had to be translated into 200 languages.

In Hong Kong, respondents answered questions after consulting with their families to obtain consensus.

And people around the world clearly interpreted the same questions very differently. Globally, 18 per cent of respondents said there had been times in the previous 12 months when they had not had enough to eat. Eighteen per cent of Americans also answered the same way.

Mr. Léger said the book is valuable because it provides insight into the views of people living on all five continents, which readers can compare with Canadians' opinions.

"That gives us a benchmark across the world. We know that we have some limits because it's 68 countries, it's not 200 countries. We don't have, for example, China . . ." he said.

The results are considered accurate to within plus or minus three to four percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

While the overwhelming majority of Canadians believe in democracy -- 85 per cent -- just 36 per cent said it governs by the will of the people. The country with the highest faith in governance by the will of the people was Malaysia, at 71 per cent. The lowest was Macedonia at 11 per cent.

And just 66 per cent of Canadians said elections here are free and fair. Only 54 per cent of U.S. residents agreed; the poll notes the Americans' views may have been influenced by allegations of voting irregularities in recent presidential elections.

The survey also found that 53 per cent of Canadians are critical of politicians and business leaders, higher than the world average of 45 per cent.

Perceptions of democracy

A massive international poll examined attitudes in 68 countries on a range of issues including poverty, the environment and government.

Do you feel that elections in your country are free and fair?

Percentage yes

Denmark - 90%

France - 69%

Germany - 73%

Italy - 46%

Portugal - 81%

United Kingdom - 70%

Bosnia and Herzegovina - 28%

Kosovo - 74%

Russia - 22%

Israel - 65%

Pakistan - 21%

United States - 54%

Mexico - 23%

Canada - 66%

Would you say that your country is governed by the will of the people?

Percentage yes

Denmark - 57%

France - 26%

Germany - 18%

Italy - 28%

Portugal - 40%

United Kingdom - 30%

Bosnia and Herzegovina - 13%

Kosovo - 46%

Russia - 18%

Israel - 49%

Pakistan - 25%

United States - 37%

Mexico - 20%

Canada - 36%



Blogger Cosd said...

Poverty over environment as a problem.

As I mentioned to you before, I think both issues of poverty and degradation of the environment have the same root causes.

Personally, I am more concerned about the the environment over poverty, but I am MOST concerned over the root causes that lead to both.

11:44 AM  

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