Tuesday, August 16, 2005


What Canadians Think

I think maybe it's time we take a break from the potty talk. Don't worry, we'll get back to that soon. Instead, I want to tell you about this fabulous book I got for my birthday from Beloved and the boys called What Canadians Think ... About Almost Everything. It's a book of collected public opinion research on Canadian opinions on everything from politics to parenting, sex to stress, work life to death. It's fascinating!

I love reference books. I was in Chapters the other day, and they had all the dictionaries and thesauri (thesauruses?) and atlases displayed prominently for the back-to-school crowd, and I began to salivate with desire. Heck, even the phone book is an interesting read if you just stop to think about what's behind each entry, how there's an entire life just like yours hidden behind that seven-digit entry, and rows and rows and rows of them on every single page. But I digress...

This book, What Canadians Think, has just the right mix of prose and statistics, with a healthy sense of humour running through. The authors, senior execs with the public opinion research firm Ipsos-Reid, make interesting the most humble minutia from daily life. I could go on forever pulling strangely compelling stats out to show you -- did you know 6% of Canadian women don't read washing instruction labels at all? Or that the average age at which birth control is first used is 16.4 years old? Or that firefighters, pharmacists and nurses are seen as the three most trustworthy occupations, while local politicians, used car salesmen and national politicians are the least trusted occupations? I love this stuff!

What I really wanted to share with you, though, was the polling data on our cousins to the south. I've always been interested in comparisons between Americans and Canadians, and I know that despite my rabid Canadianism (there's an oxymoron for you), most of you are American. It's one of our oldest debates - how different are we? Here's what they found:

Percentage of Americans who claim that "my religious fath is very important to me in my daily life: 82
Percentage of Canadians who do: 64
Rate by which an American is more likely than a Canadian to "very much" agree that faith is important in day to day life: 100%
Percentage of Americans who believe same-sex marriage is "wrong and it should never be lawful": 47
Percentage of Canadians who do: 27
Percentage of Americans who support the death penalty: 71
Percentage of Canadians who do: 42
Percentage of Americans who believe their children are getting a good education: 59
Percentage of Canadians who do: 84
Percentage of Americans who think decriminalizing marajuana is a "sound idea": 36
Percentage of Canadians who do: 51
Percentage of Canadians who thought Chretien did the right thing by not supporting the US in its war against Saddam Hussein: 74

Percentage of Americans who think Canada is just another state: 30
Percentage of Americans who think they have a king: 13
Percentage of Canadians who can name Canada's largest trading partner (the US): 82
Percentage of Americans who can name the US's largest trading partner (Canada): 14

Before this begins to look like gratuitous American-bashing, I must admit that not all the stats looked favourable to Canadians. While 63% of Americans could score five out of ten correct responses on a quiz of their own history and civics, only 39% of Canadians could pass a similar quiz about Canada. And while 79% of Americans could identify the first line of their own national anthem, only 37% of Canadians could identify the first line of our national anthem. Which begins, by the way, with the words "O Canada."

Aside from that last stat about the national anthem, I seem to be a fairly typical Canadian. What about you?