APF Canada’s 2016 National Opinion Poll: Canadian Views on Asia

VANCOUVER, BC – August 29, 2016 According to the 2016 National Opinion Poll (NOP) Canadian Views on Asia released today by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APF Canada), Canadians feel more connected and positive toward Asia than they did two years ago. They are also more optimistic about future relations with the region.

Over one-third (34%) of Canadians considers Canada part of the Asia Pacific region, up from 22 per cent in 2014. Our poll shows this feeling of belonging to the Asia Pacific translates into increased support for Canadian policies that advance engagement with Asia. Close to half (48%) of Canadians think that strengthening economic and political relations with Asia should be Canada’s top foreign policy priority, up from 37 per cent in 2014. Support for cultural exchanges and education on Asia has also jumped in the past two years – up from 53 per cent to 69 per cent for exchanges, and from 43 per cent to 59 per cent for education.

“Across a number of key measures – from free trade agreements to collaboration on education ­– Canadian support for co-operation with partners in Asia is on the rise,” said APF Canada President and CEO, Stewart Beck. “Within 15 years, Asia will represent 50 per cent of the world’s GDP, 64 per cent of the global middle class, and over 40 per cent of global middle-class consumption. Our 2016 National Opinion Poll suggests Canadians have begun to recognize the increasing significance of this dynamic region to Canada’s future relevance and prosperity.”

This sentiment extends to China. According to our poll results, Canadians report having more positive feelings towards China than they did in 2014. Nearly half of Canadians (49%) see the growing importance of China as more of an opportunity than a threat; in 2014, 41 per cent made this assessment. Furthermore, our poll finds that 50 per cent of Canadians say they could probably be persuaded to support a closer economic relationship with China if more information was available.

While optimism informs much of Canadian views on Asia in 2016, there are some aspects of engagement with Asia that Canadians still find disconcerting.

Canadians are relatively positive on private investment from Asia, but they remain distrustful of foreign state-owned enterprises (SOEs) investing in Canada. That feeling is highest with China (only 11% support investment by Chinese SOEs in Canada), followed by Malaysia (13%) and India (20%). Meanwhile, the percentage of Canadians who believe human rights are improving in China is trending downward, with 35 per cent of Canadians saying it’s getting better, compared with 39 per cent who felt things were improving in 2014.

“Canadians may support increasing trade with Asia, but not at the exclusion of humanitarian concerns,” said Stewart Beck. “Our poll shows broad support nationally for building the promotion of human rights into Canada’s foreign policy in Asia, with 76 per cent of Canadians saying Ottawa should raise human rights issues with potential partners in Asia, not leave these issues to be addressed by countries on their own.”

Added Beck: “Our 2016 National Opinion Poll results reflect a Canadian public that is open to expanding relationships in Asia, but feels our federal engagement strategy must take into account Canadian values and national interests.”

For 12 years, APF Canada’s National Opinion Poll has examined Canadian opinion and attitudes towards Canada’s engagement with Asia. This year, APF Canada commissioned EKOS Research Associates to conduct a survey of 3,526 Canadian adults who are participants in the Probit online survey panel. The survey was conducted from June 28 to July 21, 2016.

The full poll results are available at www.asiapacific.ca

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About the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada:

The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APF Canada) has been a leader in research and analysis on Canada’s relations with Asia for more than three decades. Our mission is to be Canada's catalyst for engagement with Asia and Asia's bridge to Canada. We do this by offering clear, specific, and actionable policy advice and leadership based on sound research and analysis.

Established by an Act of Parliament in 1984, APF Canada is dedicated to strengthening ties between Canada and Asia with a focus on expanding economic relations through trade, investment and innovation; promoting Canada’s expertise in offering solutions to Asia’s climate change, energy, food security and natural resource management challenges; building Asia skills and competencies among Canadians, including young Canadians; and, improving Canadians’ general understanding of Asia and its growing global influence.

Visit APF Canada at www.asiapacific.ca

For media information please contact:

Michael Roberts
Communications Manager
Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada
Office: 604-630-1527