A strong majority of Canadians feel that political correctness has “gone too far,” a new poll suggests, but over 70 per cent still hold their tongues at least some of the time to avoid offending others.
The Angus Reid Institute survey, conducted online on Aug. 17 using a sample of 1,510 Canadian adults, asked respondents if they agreed or disagreed “that the current climate of outrage over political correctness has just gone too far.”
A full 76 per cent said they agreed with the statement. That percentage rose to 82 per cent among people 55 years of age and older.
The researchers then took a different approach, asking specifically about language. Sixty-seven percent of people agreed that “too many people are easily offended these days over the language others use,” while 33 per cent agreed that “people need to be more careful about the language they use to avoid offending people with different backgrounds.”
Angus Reid research associate Ian Holliday said that he was personally surprised at just how many Canadians felt political correctness has run amok.
“This is something that we felt like would be good fodder for people to talk about,” he said of the poll.
“It seems like a timely moment to try to do something like this given the undercurrent of anti-political correctness that is seen in Donald Trump’s campaign in the United States.”
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In spite of the fact that most Canadians feel they shouldn’t need to to censor themselves as much, we generally remain a pretty cautious bunch.
Nearly three quarters of respondents (72 per cent) said they sometimes, or often, avoid making certain comments because of the other people who are present.
Nine in ten respondents said they were just trying to be polite when they kept a comment to themselves, rather than doing it to avoid judgement. And four-in-five (78 per cent) agreed there are certain things you “just shouldn’t express in front of people you don’t know.”
Holliday acknowledged that there seems to be a contradiction in the poll results, which could be the result of Canadians’ polite nature. But he pointed out that over time, the notion of what “political correctness” means has shifted.
“In the 90s, it was referring to doing things like, rather than referring to the person who is in charge of an executive board as the ‘chairman,’ referring to that position as the ‘chairperson,'” Holliday said.
“People have less patience and less tolerance for that, because they feel like it’s just language … but over the years political correctness has come to mean — particularly I think for the Donald Trumps of the world — any attempt to tell me that I can’t say something, no matter how offensive or racist or sexist or homophobic it may be.”
Canadians don’t have much patience for that kind of argument, it seems. In fact, more than half (57 per cent) of people polled agreed that people who complain openly about political correctness “just resent that they can’t say everything they want to anymore.”
The Angus Reid Institute conducted its online survey among a representative, randomized sample of 1,510 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would typically carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.