A new poll by INNOVATIVE shows very little change in awareness of or attitudes towards the election interference controversy.
The online poll of 1,203 Canadians was conducted in June and included both tracking questions and additional questions about public awareness and reaction to the Johnston report.
On May 23rd, special rapporteur David Johnston released a report recommending against calling a public inquiry into foreign interference in Canadian politics. Johnston was appointed as a special rapporteur by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March following a series of allegations of Chinese government interference in the 2019 and 2021 Canadian elections.
An initial poll conducted by INNOVATIVE in March showed that although the controversy surrounding China’s alleged interference in Canada’s 2019 and 2021 elections had not yet captured the attention of most Canadians, early signs indicated threats to the reputation of the Liberal party, which could potentially become more significant.
The new survey results reinforce the risk of this issue to the Liberal party. More than three in five (63%) report being angry when they first heard about the allegation that China has been interfering in Canada’s elections. About half (48%) believe that the way Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party handled the issue reflects deeper, systemic problems within the political system, and 54% are concerned that China’s alleged interference had at least some impact on which party formed the government.
While the potential for political harm to the Liberals remain high, actual damage remains low due to low public engagement with the issue. Only 43% have been following the controversy closely, a marginal increase of 3 points from 40% in March.
People are even less engaged with David Johnston’s report. Three in five respondents have not been following the release of the foreign interference report closely. And there does not seem to be a consensus on the special rapporteur’s recommendation – 27% agree, 32% disagree, and 41% are either neutral or don’t know.
The key takeaway from the recent poll is that while Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party should be worried about the potential impact based on the public reaction to the controversy, engagement in the story has not grown, and there seems to be a lack of demand for a public inquiry. While it’s good news for the Liberals that the issue hasn’t gotten any worse, the bad news is they have not been able to switch the channel to a more helpful issue.