The headline of a recent poll conducted by Ipsos was that more than half of Canadians favoured banning people from ‘all countries compromised by terrorism’.
At face value this is a significant outcome drawing comparisons with the rhetoric of US presidential candidate Donald Trump, but in reality it loses credence because there is too much ambiguity in the question.
Exactly what represents a country ‘compromised by terrorism’? Does this mean Canadians want to stop people travelling here from France, where 84 people died in the most recent attack in Nice on July 14? Does it mean Canadians want the government to stop bringing in Syrian refugees?
Each person responding to the survey likely interpreted the question in a different way, making it difficult to draw any conclusions from the responses.
The same poll also found that 60 per cent of Canadians felt the federal government was doing enough to address the threat of terrorism and 61 per cent felt safe in Canada.
However, there was also a clear message Canadians would like more to be done when it comes to security measures.
A significant 88 per cent wanted to see more airport security, while 83 per cent called for increased screening of Syrian refugees. Another 71 per cent wanted metal detectors at malls and other public places, 59 per cent supported increased surveillance and 56 per cent wanted to see more armed security guards.
What this poll makes clear is that while Canadians are proud of their reputation as members of a welcoming and multi-cultural society, this ideal clashes with the unease of being at risk from terrorism.
Just using the word terrorism in a poll such as this is likely to create images in the minds of respondents of some of the major recent attacks that have shaken the western world.
Although Canada has largely avoided the types of attacks experienced elsewhere, that has done little to quell the fear that it could happen here in the future.
Meanwhile, these results clash somewhat with a recent government poll, which asked whether Canadians felt bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees had increased the terrorism threat here.
In that poll, 50 per cent said they felt the threat had remained the same, 4 per cent said it had fallen and 40 per cent said it had increased. Other responses in the government poll suggested a broadly positive attitude towards bringing in Syrian refugees.
Pollsters must ensure their polls are carefully worded to secure empirical evidence that provides objective and fairly conclusive for government policy analysts to reasonably interpret.
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