Canadians warming to prisoner swap with China, split on balancing budget: Nanos survey

New polling data from Nanos Research, commissioned by CTV News, reveals Canadians' thoughts on the upcoming federal budget, carbon pricing and the idea of returning Meng Wanzhou to China in exchange for the freedom of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

On the latter point, Nanos found that far more Canadians are in favour of the prisoner swap than they were when that idea was floated last June.

At that time, 16 per cent of surveyed Canadians told Nanos that they supported the swap, with another 19 per cent saying they were somewhat supportive, versus 16 per cent somewhat opposed and 40 per cent opposed.

The latest survey, which took place between March 27 and March 30, reveals that 35 per cent of those surveyed are now in favour of the trade – more than double the figure from nine months earlier – while 23 per cent say they are somewhat in support. Twelve per cent of respondents said they somewhat oppose the idea, while 23 per cent oppose it.

Kovrig and Spavor have been in custody in China since December 2018. They were arrested days after Canadian authorities apprehended Meng, the chief financial officer of communications giant Huawei, and their arrests have largely been viewed in the West as retaliation for the detention of Meng.

Kovrig and Spavor were charged last year with offences relating to spying and selling state secrets. Their court proceedings began last month. Meng was arrested at the behest of the United States, which accuses her of fraud related to alleged Iranian business dealings. An extradition hearing in her case is ongoing.

Nanos found that support for a prisoner exchange was lowest in British Columbia, where Meng is under house arrest. Just over 50 per cent of respondents in that province reported some level of support for the idea. Support was highest in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, at 66 per cent and 63.6 per cent respectively. Women were also more likely than men to support a swap.

CARBON PRICING AND VOTER SUPPORT

The poll also found that Canadians are more likely to vote for than against any political party that supports putting a price on carbon.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last month that the federal government does have the jurisdiction to impose a carbon-pricing system on the provinces.

Overall, Nanos found, 36 per cent of those surveyed said they would vote for a federal candidate whose party supports putting a price on carbon, versus 24 per cent who said they would vote against a candidate whose party backs pricing carbon. Another 32 per cent of respondents said a candidate's stance on the issue would not affect their federal vote.

There was a clear geographic divide here as well, with respondents in B.C. being the most supportive and respondents in the Prairies the least supportive. In B.C., 42.7 per cent of those surveyed said they would vote for a candidate from a party that backs carbon pricing, versus 25.9 per cent who said they would vote against such a candidate. In the Prairies, those numbers were 21.1 per cent and 44.3 per cent, respectively.

Men were much more likely than women to say they would vote against a candidate whose party supports carbon pricing – 29.9 per cent to 19.1 per cent.

BALANCE THE BUDGET?

Asked about whether it is more important to them that their government be "running a budget deficit to invest in programs for Canadians or balancing the budget to ease the tax burden on Canadians," there was an even split, with 46 per cent of respondents answering each way.

That has changed from when the same question was asked in March 2019. At that time, 55 per cent of respondents said they prioritized balancing the budget and 43 per cent said they would prefer deficit spending.

Answers to this question were evenly split in Quebec and within the margin of error in Ontario. Respondents in Atlantic Canada said by a slim margin that they preferred deficit spending. The gaps were once again much larger in the West – 54.8 per cent of B.C. respondents said they preferred deficit spending, compared to 39 per cent who said they preferred a balanced budget, while a balanced budget received 52.9 per cent support in the Prairies, versus 37.7 per cent support for deficit spending.

Six provinces have released their 2021 budgets thus far. All of them are projecting deficits for this year, largely because of pandemic-related spending measures. The federal budget will be delivered April 19.

Forty per cent of respondents said the federal Liberal government has incurred too much debt fighting the pandemic, versus 38 per cent who said it was the right amount and seven per cent who said it was not enough.

METHODOLOGY

Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,007 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between March 27 and March 30 as part of an omnibus survey.

Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online. The sample included both land- and cell-lines across Canada. The results were statistically checked and weighted by age and gender using the latest census information and the sample is geographically stratified to be representative of Canada.

Individuals were randomly called using random digit dialling with a maximum of five call backs.

The margin of error for this survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

This study was commissioned by CTV News and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.