December 29, 2015 1:59 pm
Updated: December 29, 2015 4:23 pm

Canadians feel least safe on public transit, see Islamic State as ‘major threat’

Public transit is the space where the most Canadians seem to feel ill at ease, a new Ipsos poll indicates.

Stephen C. Host / File / The Canadian Press

A majority of Canadians say they feel safe in most public spaces like churches and movie theatres, a new poll indicates. But most also remain wary of the threat posed to Canada by terrorist groups like the so-called Islamic State.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos for Global News, relied on a sample of 2,002 Canadians interviewed between Dec. 16 and 18, 2015.

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Overall, more than 85 per cent of respondents across the country said they felt “very safe” or “somewhat safe” in a restaurant, movie theatre or place of worship, with fewer than five per cent saying they do not feel safe “at all” while frequenting these spaces.

“When you go to other countries, they make a direct link between the threat of terrorism and their safety in public places,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO at Ipsos Public Affairs.

That connection doesn’t necessarily exist in the minds of Canadians, he explained.

“By and large, Canadians feel pretty safe,” Bricker noted. “We really haven’t seen (terrorist attacks) on our soil. The one significant attack we experienced happened on Parliament Hill, not in a restaurant … People see it on television, read about it on the Internet, see it as ‘over there’ … they haven’t transposed that experience.”

The space where the fewest number of people felt safe was on public transit, with 72 per cent still saying they felt moderately or very secure. The remaining 28 per cent said they felt either “not very safe” or “not safe at all” on a bus, light rail, subway or other form of public transit. Bricker said that could simply be because more can go wrong in those spaces (accidents, mechanical failures, driver error, etc.).


The poll also examined perceived threats to Canada from individual groups or states, with the so-called Islamic State dominating the groups that Canadians seem to worry about the most. More than eight in ten (83 per cent) respondents perceived IS as a major or moderate threat to the safety and security of the country. Other terrorist organizations (79 per cent) and home grown terrorists (75 per cent) also ranked high on perceived threats to Canada.

In these cases, Bricker said, it’s likely the “lurid nature of the threats” that is hitting home for Canadians. They are able to see themselves in the victims of IS, and the graphic propaganda and continuous news coverage only serves to further that feeling.

“There’s a certain empathy that makes ISIL seem like more of a threat … There’s also a sense that we’re directly engaged in that fight.”


Relatively fewer Canadians seemed to feel that Syria, Iran, North Korea, and Russia represent major or moderate threats. Only 12 per cent said that Russia constitutes “a major threat,” for instance, in spite of the fact that it has strengthened its military presence in the Arctic and annexed parts of neighbouring Ukraine.

“The Russian threat, as real as it is, is not something that people see as a hot-button type threat,” Bricker said. In the Cold War era, the threat of Russia loomed large, he added, but “it’s different now. People see it as a geopolitical threat, not necessarily a domestic one.”

Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos Reid.” This poll was conducted between Dec. 16 and Dec. 18, with a sample of 2,002 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel and is accurate to within +/- 2.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

Ipsos year-end poll, safety


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