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Canadians' views on the U.S., China up notably in 2024

New polling shows Canadians' views of the country's biggest trade partner are better under Biden.
Canadians' opinions about the United States are driven by whoever occupies the White House

Every six months, Research Co. and Glacier Media ask Canadians about their perceptions on 15 countries. 

Our first look at this topic in 2024 shows a significant for our neighbours to the south.

But first, six countries continue to elicit positive views from fewer than a third of Canadians: Venezuela (32 per cent, up four points since July 2023), China (28 per cent, up eight points), Saudi Arabia (27 per cent, up five points), Iran (16 per cent, up three points), Russia (15 per cent, up two points) and North Korea (14 per cent, up three points).

The biggest surprises are China and Saudi Arabia, which have risen markedly in the past six months. Age is a key factor: Few Canadians aged 55 and over regard China and Saudi Arabia favourably (14 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively). The numbers are far superior for each country among Canadians aged 18 to 34 (43 per cent and 45 per cent, respectively).

For China, the current rating of 28 per cent represents a nine-point increase from the all-time low of 19 per cent in December 2020. Perceptions on China are currently best in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (33 per cent), followed by Quebec (31 per cent), Atlantic Canada (29 per cent), B.C. (29 per cent), Alberta (25 per cent) and Ontario (22 per cent). 

India remains an outlier. This month, 37 per cent of Canadians (down two points) hold a positive opinion of this country. Some may have expected India’s ranking to drop dramatically following the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar, but the numbers are not that different from where they were before the diplomatic dispute.

This month, more Canadians have positive views of two countries: South Korea (61 per cent, up three points) and Mexico (54 per cent, up seven points). 

Canada’s G7 partners in the European Union retain their positions. More than two-thirds of Canadians hold favourable views of Italy (72 per cent), Germany (69 per cent) and France (69 per cent). The rating remains superior for two other members: The United Kingdom (76 per cent) and Japan (73 per cent).

Our views on the United States deserve a deeper dive. Nearly two-thirds of Canadians (64 per cent) hold positive views of the country, up 10 points since July 2023. This represents a major shift from our July 2020 survey when, in the middle of a presidential campaign and with significant differences in the way COVID-19 was being managed, only 32 per cent of Canadians held a favourable opinion of the U.S.

An analysis of specific demographics shows just how much the perceptions of Canadians are driven by whoever occupies the White House. In July 2020, with Donald Trump in office, about a third of Canadians aged 18 to 34 (35 per cent), aged 35 to 54 (32 per cent) and aged 55 and over (32 per cent) held favourable views of the country. This month, with Joe Biden as president, the proportions are 59 per cent for the youngest adults, 62 per cent for the middle demographic and 71 per cent for the oldest one.

The fluctuations are also severe when we look at political allegiance. Favourable views of the U.S. among Conservative Party voters rose from 47 per cent in July 2020 to 77 per cent now. The change is also evident among Liberal Party voters (from 30 per cent to 70 per cent) and New Democratic Party voters (from 24 per cent to 57 per cent). 

Canadians appear to be not as upset with China and Russia as they have been in the past, and significantly fonder of the United States. It will be interesting to see how these numbers move in the next six months. The 2024 U.S. presidential campaign will probably feature the same contenders as the 2020 edition. Back then, lockouts and work-from-home guidelines made it almost impossible for Canadians to avoid the spectacle. This year may find us focused on other things and not necessarily inside our homes.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from Jan. 29-31, 2024, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.