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COMMENTARY: Canadians might prefer Biden over Trump, but it’s far from unanimous

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With the U.S. presidential election looming, Canadian pollsters have been getting in on the action by asking their fellow citizens how they regard events south of the border.

Ipsos has found if Canadians had a chance to vote in the U.S. election, we would overwhelmingly vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

The Democratic ticket would win by an astonishing 50 points.

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Canadians are not an exception in thinking this. Ipsos recently asked the same question in 25 countries and Biden/Harris won in 23 of them. The exceptions were Poland (a tie) and Russia, where Trump/Pence would win by 15 points.

Which country’s citizens would be least likely to vote for Trump/Pence? Sweden (Biden/Harris +63 per cent) and Belgium (Biden/Harris +53 per cent). Canada is third on the list of 25.

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If there’s a pattern in the global numbers, it’s that President Trump does better in countries with weaker democracies and worse in countries with stronger democracies.

It’s not exclusive, though. For example, the Trump/Pence ticket does poorly in a relatively challenged democracy, Mexico (-54 per cent). You would think your closest neighbours, Mexico and Canada, would give you a break. Not when it comes to President Trump. Strong majorities in both countries want to see the back of him after the inauguration in January.

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While the animus Canadians have for President Trump is at the extreme end of how we have felt about previous presidential candidates, the preference for Democrats over Republicans is not.

Over the past 40 years, I do not recall seeing many polls showing Canadians preferring a Republican presidential candidate over a Democrat rival. Canadians wanted both Carter and Mondale over Reagan; Dukakis over Bush 1; Clinton over Bush 1 and Dole; Gore and Kerry over Bush 2; Obama over McCain and Romney; and of course, we wanted Hillary over The Donald.

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Why do Canadians prefer Democrats to Republicans? Lots of ink will be spilled over the next few days trying to explain it, but let’s just take it as a given for now. Yes, it’s likely a values thing, but why our values differ when we have so much in common is difficult to say.

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What might be more interesting than explaining how Canadians and American values differ is explaining why some Canadians buck the trend.

We asked Canadians: Who would be better in the White House for Canada, Trump or Biden? Not surprisingly, 69 per cent preferred Biden over Trump (22 per cent).

What I sometimes need to remind myself when I see numbers like this is while 69 per cent is toughly 3:1 over 22 per cent, 22 per cent is not a small number. This is more than one in five Canadians. Put another way, it’s about 6.2 million Canadian adults or just over two Torontos. That’s a lot of people.

Which of our neighbours is prepared to buck the national consensus? Albertans certainly are. While they are still more likely to prefer Biden, nearly 40 per cent of them believe Trump would be better for Canada.

While Albertans, in general, are more likely than other Canadians to prefer conservative political options, it’s also likely they are nervous about what a President Biden will do on oil and gas issues, just like many Americans who reside in oil and gas producing states.

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Canadian women are more likely than men to prefer Biden in the White House over Trump (though both prefer Biden).

Younger Canadians, however, buck the trend. Nearly half (45 per cent) of Gen Z say they prefer Trump over Biden. There’s no easy explanation for this one. It’s certainly not what we expected to see in our survey results.

Perhaps it’s that younger Canadians have become more familiar with Trump and he doesn’t seem as outrageous to them as he does to their parents. Maybe it is because Trump has found a way to dominate the world of social media that’s so important in their lives.

Granted, this is only one poll, but it suggests something to keep an eye on. It’s possible that assumptions being made about younger Canadians being universally progressive in their outlook aren’t entirely accurate.

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Maybe there’s more division than we currently assume just below the surface. It’s something to keep an eye on for Canada’s next national election.

Darrell Bricker is the CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs. He is also the author of “NEXT: Where to Live, What to Buy, and Who will Lead Canada’s Future” (Harper Collins, 2020).

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