News & Events

August 17, 2012

New study reveals why Canadians have grown more positive about immigration over time

A recent study published in the International Journal of Comparative Sociology provides valuable insight into the basis for Canadians’ growing support for immigration. The study, conducted by UBC researchers Rima Wilkes and Catherine Corrigall-Brown, is based on Environics’ Focus Canada data on Canadian attitudes about immigration, a unique dataset encompassing national public opinion surveys that span the years 1987 through 2008.

This study utilized state-of-the-art statistical analysis to determine the extent to which the shift in public opinion over this time period is due more to generational change (younger cohorts gradually replacing older ones in the population), to macro-economic conditions, or to other factors. 

What’s the answer? The authors conclude that “changing attitudes over time are the result of an ideological shift towards greater acceptance of immigration and immigrants, as well as a response to changing macro-economic conditions.”  Generational change does not appear to play a role in this trend.

This study illustrates the value of trend studies like Focus Canada, and the type of advanced statistical techniques that make it possible to identify what factors are driving public opinion over time.  This approach serves as a useful model that can be applied to other kinds of attitudes, values and behaviours.

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