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Toronto, April 21, 2022

A majority of Canadians are concerned about government surveillance but there is a stark difference between the political left and right

This is the most recent release from our Modalis public opinion research panel.


Most Canadians are concerned about government surveillance

Overall, fully 80 per cent of Canadians are at least moderately concerned about government surveillance of personal communications and financial transactions. Just under half are highly concerned.


Concerns over surveillance vary most strongly by political orientation

While there are differences by demographics (e.g., region, gender, education), the most stark variations with concerns over government surveillance are found with political orientation.

Canadians on the political right are more than twice as likely as those on the left to be concerned about government surveillance.


Most Canadians say the federal government does not have the right to surveillance

When asked in more detail about various forms of government surveillance, a majority of Canadians say the federal government does not have the right. The only exception to this is video surveillance of public spaces (Canadians are split on this dimension).

Strong majorities say the federal government does not have the right to monitor emails and internet activity (83%), engage in clandestine information gathering on Canadian residents (75%), or demand information about people from banks (70%).


Strong differences between left and right on government surveillance

As with general concerns over government surveillance, opposition to these various specific forms of surveillance is weakest on the left and strongest on the right. The right is much more strongly opposed to a range of government surveillance measures than those on the left, and in some instances its opposition is more than 2 to 1 of the left.

This is a quite remarkable finding, given that civil liberties has traditionally been the purview of the political left.

Note: the questions on whether the federal government has the right to surveillance are taken verbatim from the World Values Survey (with the exception of demanding information from banks).


Modalis

Modalis is made up of real respondents drawn randomly from the Canadian population. These latest results are based on a sample of over 1,200 Canadians with an actual margin of error of +/- 2.8 per cent at a 95% confidence interval. The survey was conducted between March 1 and 18, 2022.