Canadian Support for the Monarchy Appears to Change According to the Survey Question

The Duchess of Cambridge celebrates Canada Day in Ottawa, July 1, 2011

I am quoted in Sun newspapers across Canada today regarding recent poll data that only 29% of Canadians support showcasing the monarchy in Canada.  In the interview, I argue that responses to polls regarding the monarchy change according to the phrasing of the question.

This particular poll probably received favourable responses from only 29% of Canadians (with higher numbers in British Columbia and lower numbers in Quebec) because the word “showcasing” evokes images of expensive celebrations occurring to honour royal visits in a time of comparative fiscal austerity.

In contrast, a January 2012 poll discussed by the Ottawa Citizen asked whether respondents were in favour of abolishing the monarchy after Queen Elizabeth II dies. The result was an even split with 43% in favour, 43% against and 14% with no specific opinion. Once again, the phrasing of the question probably strongly influenced results. There is clearly greater support in Canada for continued ties to the constitutional monarchy than there is for “showcasing” the monarchy within Canada. The reference to Elizabeth II’s death, however, probably evoked concerns regarding Prince Charles’s eventual kingship, once again influencing responses to the poll.

Of course, the value of all this polling data is called into question by evidence of widespread confusion regarding the structure of Canada’s government. As recently as 2002, when Elizabeth II celebrated her Golden Jubilee, only 5% of respondents to an Epsos-Reid poll were aware that the Queen is Canada’s head of state with 69% assuming that the Prime Minister (the Head of Government) occupied this role. Regardless of the question, polls measuring support for the monarchy are undoubtedly influenced by this misunderstanding of how Canada’s government is structured. Greater awareness of Canada as a constitutional monarchy is necessary for reliable data to be gathered regarding Canadian attitudes toward the Queen and her successors.

6 thoughts on “Canadian Support for the Monarchy Appears to Change According to the Survey Question

  1. The British Monarchy, any Monarchy, is an anachronism in today’s modern societies. The archaic British Monarchy has been stripped of it’s regal authority and rightly so. It’s time to move into an enlightened democracy in the third millennium of recorded time.

    • Thanks for your interest in my website. As you can see from the content here, I take a more positive view toward the monarchy. I believe that the crown continues to be a living institution throughout the commonwealth and that it is fully compatible with democracy.

  2. I think you are right! Most Canadians. when you ask them about changing the Constitution , are opposed. When you explain the role of the Crown to people, they reveal themselves to be in favour of the Constitutional Monarchy. The confusion lies in the lack of civic education about the system of government. Another issue, most people hang up on polling firms these days. So, I don’t believe these polls are random samples. I made the mistake of not hanging up on a polling firm the other day and found the questions (about another national issue) were quite leading and none of the alternative answers represented what I really thought about the issue. (Instead, I was forced to choose between a couple of least bad choices.) Polls on the monarchy tend to give Canadians several bad choices to choose from — and are always worded negatively. In short, they tend to be rubbish and illustrate Confusion over poll the polling question and how our system of gov. works. I suspect that, if there is ever a true debate about how our system works & the value of being a Commonwealth Realm, even Quebecois would come out in favour of retaining those ties.

    • Thanks for your detailed comment and your interest in my website. I agree that there needs to be greater awareness of how Canada’s government is structured as well as more context for any media announcement of a poll result.

  3. I think the confusion many Canadians have is due to the complex nature of the system. Here are two quotes from the Governor-General of Canada’s website:
    “The governor general is commander-in-chief of Canada. This role has been expressly conferred on the governor general as per the letters patent of 1947. As such, the governor general plays a major role in recognizing the importance of Canada’s military at home and abroad.”

    Given that many people equate CIC with Head of State (e.g. many actions taken by the U.S. President are done on that office’s authority as CIC), I think it is understandable that many think the GG is Head of State since the GG acts as CIC.

    Here is another quote from the GG’s website on the GG’s constitutional responsibilities:
    “The Canadian Constitution (Constitution Act, 1867) places executive power in the Queen. However, in practice this power is exercised by the prime minister and his ministers. The governor general acts on the advice of the prime minister and the government, but has the right to advise, to encourage and to warn. As such, the governor general offers valued counsel to them.”

    Where does this leave us? If we’re looking at this from a perspective of law, then sure, it’s the Monarch. But if we’re looking at this from a perspective of who is executing the duties of the office, then it would be the GG.

  4. Pingback: The Diamond Jubilee Book Reviews 4: The Evolving Canadian Crown edited by Jennifer Smith and D. Michael Jackson | Carolyn Harris: Royal Historian

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