Cablegate: Distant Neighbors, Northern Style: Canadian
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 OTTAWA 000723
HOMELAND SECURITY FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO KPLS CA
SUBJECT: DISTANT NEIGHBORS, NORTHERN STYLE: CANADIAN
OPINION OF THE U.S.
1. Summary and Conclusion. International debate on the war
on terrorism and impending war in Iraq has raised serious
concern about "What the World Thinks" about the United
States and its foreign policies. This is as true for Canada
as for the rest of the world. Canada is our largest trading
partner; shares our longest land border; and has been a
close ally in two world wars, the Cold War and in the war on
terrorism. Implementation of new security measures post 9-
11, such as NSEERS and visa requirements for Commonwealth
Landed Immigrants in Canada, as well as perennial bilateral
trade issues, have given us additional reason to ask how
Canadians perceive us.
2. This is the first in a series of cables that attempts to
assess Canadian opinion of the U.S. and public support in
Canada for U.S. policies. This report reviews the findings
of three recent, publicly released Canadian public opinion
polls. These polls indicate that we still enjoy a reservoir
of good will with most Canadians. But the polls also
indicate that the international environment post 9-11 has
drawn heavily on that good will. The U.S. has a broad and
complex policy agenda in which Canadian opinion matters.
The opinion polling results suggest that, as we implement
our policy agenda, we will need to find ways effectively to
shore up public support from our nearest neighbors. End
Summary and Conclusion.
IRAQ: CANADIAN VIEWS ARE MIXED BUT GENERALLY SUPPORT
MILITARY ACTION ONLY IF SANCTIONED BY THE UN.
3. The most recent publicly released national poll was
conducted by the firm Ipsos-Reid on February 28 2003. It
finds a slim majority (51 percent) of Canadians saying that
the UN Security Council has enough evidence to authorize
military action against Iraq. This is a small but
significant shift from a poll conducted 10 days earlier in
which 52 percent of Canadians said that there was not enough
evidence to authorize an attack.
4. This does not mean that a majority of Canadians support
the U.S. position on Iraq. 62 per cent of Canadians in the
Feb 28 survey continue to believe that Canada should support
more time for UN inspectors in Iraq to complete their
mission. 62 percent of Canadians also say that Canada
should provide assistance for military action in Iraq only
if the UN decides military action is required.
5. Only 32 percent of Canadians feel Canada should support
U.S. and U.K. calls for immediate military action to remove
Saddam Hussein from power. Even fewer - 18 percent - say
that Canada should provide military assistance if the U.S.
decides that military action is required in Iraq without UN
authorization. Another 18 percent of Canadians feel that
Canada should provide no military assistance for any action
in Iraq, even if authorized by the UN.
REGIONAL DIFFERENCES IN CANADIAN PERCEPTIONS
6. Canada's regions exhibit differing patterns of support
for the U.S. position on Iraq. The view that the UN
Security Council now has enough evidence to authorize
military action against Iraq is shared by at least half of
the residents in each region except in Quebec, where only 34
percent of Canadians hold this view. When Quebec is removed
from the national polling, agreement among Canadians rises
to 57 percent.
7. Of all Canadians, Albertans exhibit the highest level of
support; 70 percent believe the UN has sufficient evidence
to authorize military action. Other western Canadians,
however, are more strongly opposed. In Saskatchewan and
Manitoba, 67 percent (up from 53 percent in the earlier
poll) now say that Canada should support more time for UN
inspectors. Only 28 percent (down from 42 percent in the
earlier poll) say that Canada should support the U.S./U.K.
position on the need for military action in Iraq.
A BASELINE OF CANADIAN OPINION OF THE U.S. - THE PEW CENTER
8. The Pew Center Study, published at the end of 2002, has
been widely discussed in U.S. and foreign media, including
the media in Canada. The study received relatively little
attention on a country-by-country basis, however. The
Study, conducted in July 2002, shows that Canadians hold
positive attitudes about the U.S. At 72 percent favorable,
Canadians held a more positive image of the U.S. than almost
any other country (among traditional allies, only the U.K.
was more positive at 75 percent). That rating by Canadians
was up one percentage point, from 71 percent, in the
previous year's survey.
9. The Pew Center Study also indicates that Canadians and
Americans are alike in many of their national perceptions.
They express remarkably similar satisfaction with their own
lives. 67 percent of Canadians and 64 per cent of Americans
are satisfied with their personal lives, far higher levels
of satisfaction than in other industrialized western
nations. Canadians and Americans also express similar views
of "progress" in their countries over the past five years
(51 percent among Americans, 48 percent among Canadians).
And they express similar levels of "optimism" about the
future (61 per cent among Americans and 54 per cent among
Canadians). Americans and Canadians are significantly more
optimistic about the future than are western Europeans.
10. Yet there are significant differences in American and
Canadian perceptions of specific issue areas on the world
scene. 50 percent of Americans identify terrorism as a
"very big" problem; only 19 percent of Canadians expressed
that concern. The Pew Study found a duality of opinion
among the U.S.' closest allies in their support for the war
against terrorism. Canadian opinion fits that pattern: 68
per cent of Canadians supported the U.S. led war on
terrorism; but only 25 percent of Canadians believed that
U.S. foreign policy "considers others" when making
international policy decisions, including decisions about
countering international terrorism.
11. Canadians are critical of the U.S. in the economic
sphere. 68 percent of Canadians believe that the U.S. does
"too little to solve problems related to the gap between
rich and poor countries." On issues of pollution and the
environment, nearly twice as many Canadians as Americans are
"worried" (44 per cent vs. 23 per cent). While 50 percent
of Canadians like "American ideas about democracy," 56
percent of Canadians dislike "American ideas about business
12. Canadians have mixed views of U.S. cultural influence
but they are far less critical than Europeans. 54 per cent
of Canadians expressed the sentiment that the "spread of
American ideas and customs" was bad. This compares with 71
percent in France, 67 percent in Germany and 68 percent in
Russia. Yet 77 percent of Canadians "like" American popular
culture. This compares with 66 percent in France and
Germany and only 42 percent in Russia.
13. Among western countries, only in Canada does a strong
majority (77 per cent) express a positive view of
immigration. Among other major industrial countries,
Americans show the next highest level of support for
immigration; but at 49 percent, American support for
immigration is far lower than Canadian.
CANADIAN OPINION UPDATE: A NEGATIVE SHIFT?
14. The Pew Center in Canada was conducted by the Environics
Research Group in July, 2002. The same firm conducted a
separate poll with a different set of respondents in
February 2003. The two polls were not designed to be
strictly inter-comparable. Nevertheless, the findings of
the later poll may suggest a negative shift in Canadian
perceptions of the U.S. The overall Canadian attitude
toward the U.S. remained favorable. But at 62 percent, it
was considerably lower than in August 2002.
A majority of Quebecers - 54 per cent - for the first time
held an unfavorable opinion of the U.S., a 20 percent drop
since August 2002.
15. The polling data from Quebec suggests that, despite the
decline of separatism as a political issue, there is still a
significant anglophone/francophone division of opinion on
international issues. This is particularly interesting as
Quebecers often have been viewed as more pro-American than
other Canadians - particularly in Ontario - because of wide
support for free trade and American culture. In another
twist, the latest poll finds Canadians overall holding more
positive views of both the U.K. and France than of the U.S.
77 percent of Canadians hold a favorable view of the U.K.
compared to 69 percent for France and 62 percent for the
U.S. The favorable rating for France in Quebec was 80
percent compared with 62 percent for the U.K. and 40 percent
for the U.S.
16. COMMENT. These polling results indicate that Canadian
perceptions of the U.S. are mixed and dynamic, and that they
exhibit significant regional differences. Future cables
will attempt to assess more anecdotally the extent to which
Canadian perceptions may reflect deeper sentiments in favor
of peace and in favor of multi-lateral action; and the
extent to which such sentiments may translate into "anti-
American" feelings. END COMMENT. Cellucci