An opinion poll released last week indicates that 52% of Canadians agree with the statement that our society is “broken” – a spike of 15 points over three years ago – while just 19% of respondents disagreed with the statement.
The poll, conducted by Ipsos and provided exclusively to Global News, also suggests that two-thirds of respondents believe the economy is rigged to benefit the rich, while 61% agreed with the statement that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me.” Commentary provoked by the poll has focused on the portent these results have for a surge of populist parties or ideas in the coming federal election.
It should not be a surprise, perhaps, that people think the economy benefits the rich or that politicians have at heart the best interests of people other than little-old-us. We have been complaining about our politicians since the profession was invented and probably every one of us, no matter where we fall on the income scale, thinks we’d be doing better economically if it weren’t for some systemic force or policy that prevents us from getting ahead.
The really provocative result in this poll is the perception apparently held by more than half of Canadians that our society is broken. Admittedly, the question is ill-formed. What does “broken” even mean in this context? Regardless, the idea that we live in a broken society probably says more about the individual respondents than it does about our society as a whole. Canadians are among the most privileged, advantaged, wealthiest, healthiest and least oppressed people in the world. With some grievous historical and contemporary exceptions, Canada is one of the most egalitarian societies on earth.
We may dislike our politicians or have misgivings about this or that development, but for a poll to suggest that half of Canadians think this is a broken society makes us wonder if we are a country of naïve and entitled people. It would be instructive for Canadians who feel this way to take an eye-opening trip almost anywhere else in the world.
This is not to dismiss the very real cases of injustice, inequality or other systemic problems our country faces, but this poll indicates that half of Canadians don’t have the faintest idea how fortunate most of us have it here.
It also creates the potential for some very concerning political consequences. If Canadians march into the polling booth next month certain that this is a broken society, it is anyone’s guess what kind of ideas they might be willing to support to “fix” it.