Study: Public confidence in Canadian institutions, 2013 and 2014
Ottawa - According to the 2013 General Social Survey, three-quarters (76%) of Canadians have some or a great deal of confidence in the police, making it the institution with the highest level of public confidence.
At the same time, around 6 in 10 Canadians were confident in the school system (61%), banks (59%) and the justice system and courts (57%). In contrast, a minority of Canadians expressed confidence in the media (40%), Federal Parliament (38%) and major corporations (30%).
Confidence in government and institutions varies among the provinces
Levels of confidence in institutions varied across the provinces. Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick tended to have the most confidence in institutions. In New Brunswick, confidence was above the provincial average for six of the seven institutions in the survey. The exception was the Federal Parliament. In Newfoundland and Labrador, confidence was above average for five of seven institutions, while confidence in the justice system and courts and Federal Parliament was on par with the provincial average.
Residents of Quebec reported lower levels of confidence in all institutions, with the exception of the media and Federal Parliament, where confidence was similar to the provincial average. In British Columbia, confidence in the police, the school system, the justice system and courts, and Federal Parliament were all below the provincial average.
Residents of Toronto and Calgary generally have more confidence in institutions
At the census metropolitan area (CMA) level, Toronto's institutional confidence was generally highest among the 33 CMAs surveyed. Residents of Toronto reported the most confidence in banks, the justice system and courts, and Federal Parliament, while confidence in major corporations was also above the CMA average.
In contrast, confidence was lowest in the Quebec CMAs of Montréal and Sherbrooke. In particular, residents of Montréal had lower than average confidence in the police, the school system, banks, the justice system and courts, and major corporations. Residents of Sherbrooke had below average levels of confidence in banks, major corporations, the justice system and courts, and media.
Most Canadians believe police are doing a good job
In addition to having a high level of confidence in police, the majority of Canadians believe police were doing a good job across the six categories examined in the study, according to the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization. These categories were: being approachable and easy to talk to (73%), ensuring the safety of citizens (70%), promptly responding to calls (68%), treating people fairly (68%), enforcing the laws (65%) and providing information on crime prevention (62%).
Canadians' perceptions of police have become more favourable over time, as more Canadians believe police are doing a good job in five of the six categories compared with 2004. The proportion of Canadians who believed police were doing a good job being approachable and easy to talk to was the same.
Perceptions of police performance were generally highest in Quebec and lowest in the western provinces. Specifically, residents of the Prairie provinces and British Columbia were less likely to state their local police were doing a good job in five of the six measures of police performance. Only the perception of the police's ability to be approachable and easy to talk to were similar to the provincial average.
Residents of Ottawa rate police performance higher than average for all six measures
Residents of Ottawa were more likely to state their local police were doing a good job for each of the six categories. Compared with the CMA average, perceptions of police in Ottawa ranged from 6 percentage points higher for their ability to provide information on crime prevention to 11 percentage points higher for their ability to promptly respond to calls.
In contrast, for each of the six questions on police performance, residents of Winnipeg were less likely to state local police were doing a good job, in particular, at enforcing the laws and promptly responding to calls. Residents of Vancouver rated police below average for five of the six measures.
Many factors influence perceptions of confidence and performance
In addition to differences by geography, several socioeconomic and demographic characteristics are associated with varying levels of confidence in government and institutions. For example, women, older Canadians, those with a household income of $80,000 or more, visible minorities, and immigrants were generally more likely to have confidence in government and institutions.
Similarly, women and older Canadians were generally more likely to rate police performance favourably. In contrast, Canadians who were victims of crime or who reported contact with police for any reason in the 12 months preceding the survey were less likely to believe that police were doing a good job.