June 11, 2012

Canadian Engagement on Global Poverty Issues Poll

The Poll:
On May 22, 2012, the Inter-Council Network (ICN) of Provincial and Regional Councils for International Cooperation released the results from their public opinion poll.  The poll was undertaken to gain a deeper understanding of Canadians’ knowledge, opinions, attitudes, behaviour and engagement in global poverty issues and to demonstrate the value Canadians place on global poverty reduction work, including both international activities and public engagement within Canada. In addition, the ICN hoped that the findings would contribute to a national baseline on Canadian engagement in global poverty and would be capable of informing and providing recommendations to the international development sector and those organizations that fund our work.

The ICN commissioned Vision Critical, formerly Angus Reid Strategies, to conduct the poll in March 2012. The online-quantitative survey was developed and deployed to a sample of 1,211 Canadian residents, providing a margin of error on the total sample of + 2.8% 19 times out of 20. The sample was calibrated to the 2006 Stats Can Census data to ensure a more accurate snapshot of the Canadian reality. To enable a comparative analysis of the findings, 1000 US residents and 2000 UK residents were polled on several questions and the comparisons between the three countries proved to be one of the more fascinating aspects of a very interesting piece of public opinion research.

The Findings:
Working with experts from Vision Critical, the Executive Directors and staff members from the seven Provincial and Regional Councils committed an enormous amount of time and effort into the development of the survey questions and were all very excited to discover what information the survey would provide.

Considering the density of the survey and the enormous amount of data that was collected, it was a challenge to tease out findings of most relevance and meaning to our sector.  However, after careful review, nine key items have been identified as being the key strategic findings. They are:

·         Canadians show more optimism towards the impact of global poverty reduction than their US and UK counterparts. In particular 75% of Canadians believe that reducing global poverty will help to fulfill human rights obligations, while only 56% of US residents and 55% of UK residents believe the same.

·         One-third of Canadians rank global poverty (hunger in the world) among the 1st, 2nd or 3rd most concerning issues to them globally. The economy, wars/conflict, human rights, and environmental issues -- all closely linked to global poverty – are also top of mind.

·         The majority of Canadians believe there is a human rights obligation to reduce global poverty and believe there are significant benefits to doing so, including improving Canada’s international reputation, reducing global conflict, and reducing the risks of pandemics.

·         More than half of Canadians (52%) feel the federal government is most responsible for addressing global poverty, and nearly three-quarters (72%) believe they should be supporting public awareness about global poverty issues.

·         While 70% of Canadians are supportive of the government matching donations of private citizens for global poverty reduction work, a slightly higher number (72%) do not support government funding of multinational corporations (business/private sector).

·         Only 41% of Canadians feel global poverty affects them personally, while 43% say it does not and 16% are unsure. Of those who feel personally affected, the majority cite reasons of social conscience (affects others, personal beliefs).

·         Donating funds is the most common way Canadians engage in social issues. Ethical consumption, volunteering time, and talking to others about a cause are also popular means of engagement for one quarter of Canadians.

·         Canadians are most likely to support groups that demonstrate public accountability and that they perceive as being effective.

·         Given that most will research an organization before getting involved, and that an organizations’ own website is one of the top two sources, web presence should be forefront in any public engagement strategy.

A Brief Analysis:

Helping Canadians make the connection
It is encouraging to find that one third of all Canadians polled ranked global poverty as a top concern and that significantly more Canadians than Americans or British believe we are obliged to reduce global poverty.  Notably, regardless of political leanings, the poll clearly showed that Canadians feel we have a moral imperative to do something to reduce global poverty and to teach our children about the importance of working towards the reduction of global poverty.

However, it was clear from the results that Canadians are losing sight of the big problems around the world and do not make the connections between local and global, with 43% of Canadians feeling unaffected by global poverty and only 51% thinking that reducing global poverty will increase Canadian prosperity.

This disconnect between Canadians seeing the importance of reducing global poverty around the world and the apparent inability of the majority to visualize a link between their lives and the lives of those affected by global poverty more directly indicate a need for the international development sector to develop a stronger, more effective narrative to engage Canadians on the interconnectedness of the issues surrounding global poverty.

The Federal Government needs to be involved in engaging Canadians
This research clearly identified a role for the federal government in promoting global citizenship amongst Canadians. 72% of Canadians indicated that they felt the federal government should be supporting public awareness about global poverty issues.  Canadians want to be engaged and informed and they want their government to invest in public engagement. There needs to be increased value and support for public engagement as an integral part of international development. 

Whose job is global poverty reduction?
Canadians feel many types of organizations need to support global poverty reduction, including NGOs, and Corporations, with the federal government taking the lead on reducing global poverty. However, while the private sector, including multinational corporations, has a role to play in reducing poverty around the world, a majority of Canadians said the federal government should not be providing funding to businesses or the private sector as a means of addressing poverty.

This is a particularly timely and relevant finding considering current controversies surrounding decisions by CIDA regarding whom to fund and through which mechanisms.  Obviously, the current direction CIDA is taking towards partnerships with private sector and decreases in funding to NGOs is not in keeping with the findings of this research.

A Deeper Look:

The entire poll can be viewed at www.icnpoll.ca.

The ICN has begun sharing the results through workshops and presentations across the county. Poll results and analysis will be provided through each Provincial and Regional Council.  Contact the Council in your province or region for more information about how your organization can benefit further from this research.

British Columbia Council for International Cooperation – www.bccic.ca
Alberta Council for Global Cooperation – www.acgc.ca
Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation – www.earthbeat.sk.ca
Manitoba Council for International Cooperation – www.mcic.ca
Ontario Council for International Cooperation – www.ocic.on.ca
Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale – www.aqoci.qc.ca
Atlantic Council for International Cooperation – www.acic-caci.org

About the Inter-Council Network (ICN)
The Inter-Council Network (ICN) is a coalition of seven provincial and regional Councils for International Cooperation. These member-based Councils represent over 400 diverse organizations from across Canada that are committed to global social justice. The ICN provides a forum in which the Councils collaborate for improved effectiveness and identify common priorities for collective action.

The “Canadian Engagement on Global Poverty Issues” poll conducted by Vision Critical for the ICN in March 2012 is one component of a three-year national initiative designed to explore public engagement effectiveness on global poverty issues, and to build the capacity of public engagement practitioners in Canada.

The Poll:

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