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Many Canadians Satisfied With Environmental Efforts

by Aaron Rice

Fifty-four percent are satisfied, 45% are dissatisfied

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's agreement this month to begin a clean-energy dialogue comes in an atmosphere in which a slight majority of Canadians (54%) already expressed satisfaction with efforts to preserve the environment.


Canadians surveyed by Gallup in September 2008 were as dissatisfied (45%) with the efforts to protect the environment as Americans (49%) were in August 2008. Obama said he hopes the United States and Canada can work together to "advance carbon-reduction technologies." Canada is the United States' largest oil supplier, and production from the country's oil sands Obama said, "creates a big carbon footprint." Oil production from the oil sands, which has the potential to become a significant portion of all oil produced in Canada, generates about 10% to 30% more greenhouse gases than conventional crude oil.

Currently, the oil industry constitutes only about 3% of Canada's industry GDP, but it could be more in the future with oil sands potential of generating 1.7 trillion barrels of oil. The potential economic benefits of additional oil are swaying Harper, a conservative politician from Calgary, Alberta, to seek to exempt the oil sands from the environmental pact. He faces opposition from environmentalists who want Obama to use his high approval rating in Canada to influence the country to shrink its carbon footprint.

Because cleaning up production could cut into oil revenues that are already down because of plunging oil prices, Canadians may perceive a trade-off between preserving the economy and the environment, especially considering the extent to which Canadians grew more pessimistic about their economy between 2007 and 2008.


Just prior to the global economic meltdown in September 2008, a majority (54%) of Canadians remained optimistic about the economy. Their relatively positive views compared with other nations at that time may have had to do with Canada's strong economic growth throughout the past seven years. The country, like its neighbor to the south and other global partners, has since slipped into recession.

Canadians' Views on Global Warming

While 24% who report that the rising temperatures are a result of natural causes may question the actual environmental effects of oil production from the oil sands, Gallup finds the majority of Canadians believe rising global temperatures result from human causes.


Seventy percent of Canadians consider global warming a "very serious" (26%) or "somewhat serious" (44%) threat to themselves and their families.


Bottom Line

While many Canadians are dissatisfied with efforts to preserve the environment, they are also growing more pessimistic about their economy. Convincing them that cleaner energy practices will not come at a great expense to their economy may be key to a successful collaboration between United States and Canada on this issue.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,005 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in September 2008 in Canada; 1,004 adults, aged 15 and older, in the United States in August 2008; and 1,010 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in September 2007 in Canada. For results based on total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.


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