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Canadians want to stop climate change — but half don’t want to pay an extra cent: Ipsos poll

WATCH: Climate change 3rd most important issue for voters, but almost half aren't willing to pay to fight it – Sep 26, 2019

There may be a growing consensus across the country that climate change is a problem, but roughly half of Canadians — and a majority of Conservative voters — aren’t willing to spend a single extra penny to tackle it.

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The latest Ipsos poll, conducted exclusively for Global News between Sept. 20 and 23, shows Canadians have vastly different views on what should be done to try to mitigate the impacts of climate change, and 46 per cent do not want to spend any additional money in the form of taxes or higher costs of goods.

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Just 22 per cent say they would be willing to pay up to $100 extra per year.

That drops to eight per cent who say they would be willing to pay between $101 and $200.

The number of those surveyed who said they are unwilling to pay any extra costs rose to 56 per cent among individuals who identified as Conservative voters.

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“There’s a big difference here between intent and behaviour,” said Sean Simpson, vice president of Ipsos.

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“I think it’s because people obviously see climate change as an issue — it’s number three in importance in people’s votes — but in terms of the culprit, I think people blame other people.”

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Is that hypocritical?

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“Oh, absolutely,” said Simpson, who compared the challenge to that of trying to get people to take up recycling decades ago.

“I think people think that business is the culprit and other countries, and that they are not the culprit.”

Ipsos also looked at how much all average voters who identify with one of the main parties are willing to pay, and it was voters who identify as Green supporters who were willing to pay the most with an average of $701.

NDP voters on average said they would be willing to pay $375, while Liberal supporters said they would be willing to pay an extra $326.

Bloc Quebecois and Conservative voters had the lowest averages of $254 and $206, respectively.

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Those findings come as voters also ranked affordability and the cost of living as slightly ahead of climate change in a listing of their priorities.

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Health care took the top spot, with 37 per cent of respondents ranking it as their top concern, followed by the cost of living at 28 per cent and climate change at 26 per cent. The economy more broadly ranked fourth in voter concerns.

Simpson said the feeling among voters that they are already having trouble making ends meet is likely a direct factor in why so many appear unwilling to pay even a little bit more to tackle what they acknowledge is a serious problem.

The other part may be a belief that it should be up to government to use existing public funds to tackle the problem.

“Canadians are saying, ‘I don’t think I need to pay more personally, because in Canada, we pay an awful lot of taxes and so as part of that, I expect government to be leading these initiatives in figuring out where the dollars are best spent,'” Simpson added.

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He said the data suggests Canadians want to see a more “measured” approach, and that’s reflected in the range of responses to how urgent the issue is.

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Twelve per cent of respondents said there was no urgency to do anything about climate change if that action would come at the expense of jobs.

Men and respondents over the age of 55 were the most likely to say so, along with Canadians in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Twenty-three per cent of Conservative voters also said so.

On the flip side of the matter, 31 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: “we need to do everything we can to fight climate change immediately, even if the economy slows as a result and jobs are lost.”

Thirty-nine per cent of those respondents were from Quebec and 40 per cent were between the ages of 18 and 34.

In terms of party breakdown, just 17 per cent of Conservative voters agreed with that statement.

In comparison, that number was 53 per cent for Green voters, 43 per cent of Bloc voters, 41 per cent of NDP supporters, and 34 per cent of Liberal voters.

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The majority of Canadians, or 56 per cent, said that although the country needs to tackle climate change, any action needs to be done in balance with the impact on jobs and the economy — and 60 per cent of both Boomers and Tory voters said so, along with 63 per cent of those in Atlantic Canada.

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So what should political leaders do to tackle climate change?

The poll found 47 per cent of respondents said taxing businesses that produce too many carbon emissions should be a priority.

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Forty-five per cent also said reducing single-use plastics should be a focus, while 35 per cent said there need to be more incentives to get businesses to produce less carbon and 34 per cent want to see the economy diversified away from carbon-producing industries.

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between September 20 and 23, on behalf of Global News.  For this survey, a sample of n = 1500 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online via the Ipsos I-Say panel and non-panel sources.  Respondents earn a nominal incentive for their participation. Quotas and weighting were employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe (weighting efficiency = 63.9%). The precision of Ipsos polls which include non-probability sampling is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population.

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Detailed tabular data tables can be found here. 


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