Minutes of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy July 2004 Official Meeting

American Embassy
Quebec, Canada
July 13, 2004

Chairman Barbara M. Barrett
Commissioner Harold C. Pachios
Commissioner Maria Sophia Aguirre
Commissioner Jay T. Snyder
Commissioner Charles Evers
Mr. Frank Graves, CEO EKOS
Matt J. Lauer, Executive Director of Advisory Commission
Mike Garretson, Intern

Subject: Public opinion research on Canadian opinions of the United States.

Background: At the commission’s invitation Mr. Frank Graves presented his observations on Canadian perceptions of the United States in relation to foreign policy and other areas.

Chairman Barbara Barrett called the meeting to order.

Following brief opening comments and discussion of administration matters Chairman Barrett introduced Mr. Frank Graves, CEO of EKOS Research Associated Incorporated.

Mr. Graves opened his presentation on public opinion research by talking about Canadian perceptions of the United States. He reported that while the two countries’ value structures are more alike than any other two countries on the globe, significant differences have increased over the last five years.

He reported survey findings of a strong international consensus favoring a shared economic space. He contrasted the European economic integration which coincided with growing societal and cultural similarities, whereas in North America, despite the economic interconnectedness, national identity is stronger than ever before. He said his statistics reveal that Canadians’ and Americans’ national identification has steadily increased, while local identification has decreased. Graves said that Canadians are less conservative than Americans, less polarized in their political views and more apt to avoid political and ideological labels. Canadians are also more secular, and place a much stronger emphasis on diversity, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, multilateralism and collectivism. While Canadians perceive their environmental stance to be superior to that of America’s, in reality they are almost equivalent.

He continued: The War in Iraq has had a corrosive effect on US-Canada relations and damaged Canada’s commerce. He found that few Americans are conscious of this difference while most Canadians are keenly aware of it.

He said support for trade liberalization in the United States has remained high across the board, while in Canada, the elite are in favor of trade liberalization but the general public is not.

He concluded that Canadians do not believe there is any eminent personal or national security risk. They want to ensure that they are properly securing their borders and not exporting terrorism to the Unites States. Canadians generally feel that their government has responded appropriately to the threat of terrorism.

Chairman Barrett asked whether Canadians that Mr. Graves surveyed perceived that their government had gone too far in responding to security needs and the threat of terrorism.

Mr. Graves replied that Canadians respond on both the liberal and conservative ends of the spectrum: Libertarians do feel their government has gone too far by taking intrusive powers, while conservatives feel their government has not done enough. Mr. Graves found the Canadians’ apathy about their government’s response disconcerting.

Commissioner Penne Korth Peacock asked about the regional identities of Canadians polled.

Mr. Graves responded that the survey was a representative sample of all regions. Regional patterns exists, linked strongly to political ideology and educational levels.

Breaking with historical precedent, a majority of Canadians support the government decision to enter into discussions with the U. S. on participation in ballistic missile defense.

Commissioner Jay Snyder asked about the change in Canadians’ views of the United States between June 2003 and May 2004.

Mr. Graves attributed 10 percent of the change to Canadians being very angry about the war in Iraq. The rising antipathy toward the U.S., which is not as high as it was in the 1980’s when Canada was trying to distinguish itself from its southern neighbor, is strongest in Quebec. Quebec is exposed to a lot of European media coverage, which highlighted the hostility between France and the United States.

Canadian and American sentiments toward one another are extremely favorable overall. Americans think Canadians are just like themselves, but only half of Canadians think Americans are like themselves. Surprisingly, in America, elites were less positively disposed to some of the issues around trade liberalization, labor mobility and human mobility than the public.

Chairman Barrett asked about the Canadian public’s attitude toward immigration.

Mr. Graves said the receptivity to freedom of movement in North America is still strong but has waned recently, especially when Mexico is incorporated into the equation. Strong support for an integrated trilateral approach to the environment and energy exists, but the connection falls off with regard to banks, courts and political institutions.

Commissioner Harold Pachios asked about specific resistance to a multicultural America.

Mr. Graves said the public and the elites share some resistance to a multicultural North America.

Commissioner Harold Pachios then asked about pertinence of his perception of the liberal view of immigration in Canada and the less liberal view in the United States.

Mr. Graves said that Canada’s actions will be effected, for the short term, by the change in government which occurred just recently when the Bloque Quebecois, received a lion’s share of seats in Quebec, even though Quebecers aren’t particularly interested in separation today. The Bloque Quebecois party will affect Paul Martin’s agenda. In the U.S., Mr. Graves believes that issues relating to Canada will not play a prominent role with the exception of the issue of security.

Commissioner Jay Snyder asked if the change was a permanent shift or a temporary change based on specific issues.

Mr. Graves responded that the shift is not dramatic and that Canada’s governing party historically stakes out and then holds the middle ground, whereas in the United States and Britain points of view fluctuate much more intensely between the left and the right. Canadians are much more amenable to consensus or the "third way" approach.

Mr. Pachios recalled his childhood in Maine when Americans and Canadians intermingled constantly. He wondered where the divergence originated and what the specific data showed about how people first identify themselves.

Mr. Graves responded that there is a moralistic difference between Canadians and Americans. He stressed that the nations are very similar and that some of the distrust is generated from normal feelings of the smaller partner.

Mr. Pachios noted that people in Quebec could account for that because 50 percent of people in Quebec felt that they had a different culture.

Mr. Graves noted statistics from the Pew organization that revealed that Canadians watching Canadian television were opposed to their government’s actions 20 percent of the time, where as Americans watching American television were opposed to their government’s actions 60 percent of the time. Canadians watched the war coverage just as closely as Americans. Quebecers weren’t watching any American media and were focused on European, notably France’s, opposition to the war.

Commissioner Sophia Aquirre asked about alternative forms of communication, like the Internet, reach into mass publics.

Mr. Graves predicted that the Internet will be a principle tool in connecting citizens in the coming age.

Mr. Pachios revisited Canada’s regional variations in attitudes towards the United States.

Mr. Graves said that the regional divides are quite large: Quebec and British Columbia have the most negative views of America, whereas Alberta and Ontario have very favorable attitudes towards America.

Chairman Barrett asked about the relevance of Canada’s significant relationships with Asia.

Mr. Graves responded that there is a large Asian connection throughout Canada, noting that there are more individuals of Asian descent under age 30 in Canada than in the United States. The issue of immigration and multiculturalism has become a non-issue in Canada. It has completely evaporated from the historical high when 70 percent of Torontonians thought there were too many immigrants to today when less than 20 percent of Torontonians hold that view.

Chairman Barrett asked if the immigrant investor program that was new a couple of decades ago had since been modified.

Mr. Graves said that the program has been scrapped because it was unsuccessful. Deep demographic and labor market issues facing future generations have contributed to a more accepting attitude toward immigrants.

Commissioner Tre Evers said that the commission had met with Robert Russo from the press association the night before and discussed how the Canadian navy has become nonexistent. Commissioner Evers then asked how Canadians feel about their diminished military.

Mr. Graves replied that Canadians overall do not really care, but noted that the government did commit to spending $40 billion (Canadian) on defense in coming years.

Chairman Barrett concluded the discussion with thanks to Mr. Graves for his insights. The meeting was adjourned.