As Canada gears up for a big election this fall – in which climate change is likely to be hotly debated – researchers from the University of Montreal and University of California Santa Barbara have just released an updated interactive tool to visualize Canadian opinion on climate change beliefs and policy preferences. It allows users to download the underlying estimates of public opinion for each province and riding in Canada. This tool, presented in the form of maps, is available in English and French.
The Canadian Climate Opinion Maps (CCOM) were created using a statistical model based on over 9,000 responses to national surveys from 2011-2018. It reveals that, nationally, 83% of Canadians believe that Earth is getting warmer, but the new public opinion maps show distinct differences across provinces and ridings. Moreover, about 70% of adults believe the Earth is warming in Alberta, for example, whereas 89% believe this in Quebec. Within federal electoral districts, percentages vary from 60% in the Souris-Moose Mountain riding in Saskatchewan, to 93% in the riding of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“Our research shows that there is broad belief in climate change and support for policy across the country”, said one of the project’s lead researchers, University of Montreal Professor Erick Lachapelle. “Additionally, there is broad alignment between opinion and policy across provinces, with support for emissions trading among the highest in Quebec, and support for a carbon tax among the highest in British Columbia. This suggests that there has not been a backlash against these policies where they have been implemented.”
With a federal election just around the corner, the release of the tool comes at an important time. “Given the role of public beliefs and preferences in a democracy, we thought it would be helpful to foster awareness and dialogue on this crucial issue,” explained University of California Santa Barbara Assistant Professor and collaborator Matto Mildenberger. “Hopefully, this strong public support will be reflected in real debate in the coming months,” he said.
“Thanks to this tool, we are able to see just how well Canadian opinion is reflected in party positions on climate change,” said Lachapelle. “Of course, opinions and policy preferences are not uniform across the country. So this tool illustrates just how well Canadian opinion is represented in political policy platforms” he added, noting that “The juxtaposition of opinion between constituents in Andrew Scheer’s riding and that party’s position on carbon taxes is fascinating.”
Though high-resolution data sets for climate change risks are readily available, data on public opinion at the local level is almost non-existent. This new data set allows novel insight into public perceptions at scales much closer to where actual decisions, outreach and planning take place. This will be an important resource for policy-makers, planners, practitioners, academics, engaged citizens, and of course, political parties vying to represent their constituents in the coming election.
About the tool
Users can explore the maps and data by clicking on your province or riding, and compare results across questions and with other geographic areas. They should keep in mind that the uncertainty of the estimates increase as they refine their search to closer geographic scales.
All estimates are derived from a geographic and statistical model validated in the academic literature and applied to national survey data collected in Canada since 2011 (>9000 survey responses). These data were used to estimate differences in opinion between geographic and demographic groups based on data from Statistics Canada. The results account for change over time. The result is a high-resolution data set of estimated opinion at the national, provincial and riding scales for the year 2019. The accuracy of the estimates are approximately +/- 6 percentage points for provincial-level estimates and +/- 7 percentage points for estimates at the riding level (at a 95% level of confidence).
This research and website are funded in part by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Société et Culture, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Energy Foundation, and the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment. Additionally, funding for individual survey waves was provided by EcoAnalytics, the Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie, l’Institut de l’énergie Trottier, Sustainable Prosperity, Canada 2020, the Public Policy Forum, and the Chaire d’études politiques et économiques américaines.