In a survey conducted exclusively for Global News from March 11-16, Ipsos found that six in 10 Canadians say they are concerned they might not have enough money to feed their families.
That figure is up 16 percentage points from a similar poll conducted in November, when the annual rate of inflation stood at 4.7 per cent.
That figure has since risen a full percentage point to 5.7 per cent, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada. And economists say that with the ongoing war in Ukraine putting pressure on prices at the pump and in the grocery aisles, inflation likely hasn’t peaked, either.
Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, tells Global News that the latest polling represents a “dramatic transformation” of Canadians’ top-of-mind concerns. As the pandemic winds down, wider concerns such as climate change and health care are falling down the rankings as eroding affordability rises to the top.
“What we’re now seeing is an agenda that’s very much dominated by really urgent economic issues, principally, the cost of living,” Bricker says.
Concerns about putting food on the table are highest among families with kids, with 68 per cent of parents indicating they were concerned.
More than 60 per cent of those surveyed between the ages 18 and 54 said they were worried about feeding their families, while the number drops off for respondents older than that.
Bricker says the generational divide reveals who’s struggling most with the rising cost of living.
“It’s people who are really stretched: younger people, people who are less affluent, people with kids at home. That’s who’s really struggling here,” he says.
Younger Canadians who are hoping to start families and potentially break into Canada’s increasingly out-of-reach housing market are the ones likely to feel frustrated by the soaring cost of living, Bricker says, noting policymakers will have to contend with these sentiments at the polls.
“That frustration is going to find a way to boil up so that it creates a difficult political environment for any government that’s running for election.”
Beyond food, 85 per cent of Canadians are concerned about inflation making “everyday things” less affordable. That’s up seven per cent from November’s poll. More than two thirds of Canadians surveyed said they’re worried about not being able to afford gasoline.
Cost of living impacts from Russia-Ukraine war
Though a recent Ipsos poll for Global News also showed broad support for sanctions against Russia during the war in Ukraine, Canadians did hint in that survey that the domestic economic impacts of the conflict were a concern.
Bricker says that while the initial response to the plight of Ukraine is to provide immediate relief, support for ongoing action may wane the longer the war stretches and the higher prices go as a result.
“What we’re going to see is people’s focus is going to get closer to home and less on what’s going on in places like Ukraine. That tends to be the pattern,” he says.
Inflation anxiety is not evenly spread across the country, either.
Some 71 per cent of respondents from Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as 69 per cent of those from Atlantic Canada, said they were concerned about feeding their family. Meanwhile, concerns were lowest on the west coast: 51 per cent of British Columbians said they were not very or not at all concerned about the impact of inflation on their grocery bills.
In an effort to tame rampant inflation, the Bank of Canada moved earlier the month to hike interest rates for the first time since 2018.
But with more economists expecting additional rate hikes through the year, 73 per cent of Canadians say they’re concerned interest rates will rise too quickly for them to keep up.
Despite the worries, some Canadians feel they can absorb the hit from inflation, while others remain at a breaking point.
Nearly one in four (24 per cent) respondents say they’re completely out of money and can’t pay more for their necessities. These figures remain on par with data from November.
Eleven per cent of Canadians say they can “easily” absorb increased costs, down two per cent from four months ago.
Some 37 per cent say that they can handle the inflation pressure with “some adjustments” to their spending — these figures are up two per cent from November. A further 28 per cent say it’ll take “major changes” to accommodate higher prices.
Ipsos says that, in total, 52 per cent of respondents are struggling and say they can’t afford rapid inflation, while the remainder of Canadian households can adjust to absorb the costs. Those figures remain steady from November.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between March 11 and 16, 2022, on behalf of Global News. Ipsos interviewed a sample of 1,500 Canadians aged 18 and older, weighted to ensure results reflect the general population per census estimates. The poll is accurate to within ± 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.