Two-thirds of Canadians on the right of the political spectrum say that most stories in the news cover their beliefs unfairly, while less than one-quarter of Canadians on the left of that spectrum say the same, a recent survey found.
The survey also found that two-thirds of Canadians on the right say they don’t trust most of the stories in the news, while only one-fifth of Canadians on the left say the same.
The survey, published by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) on June 9, asked the opinions of 4,000 Canadian adults about nine questions that represent competing perspectives on social values, media, and the justice system.
The public opinion think tank created a Canadian Values Index (CVI) to score respondents on their answers to those questions, categorizing them into four roughly equal-sized groups across the progressive-conservative spectrum: left (27 percent of the sample), centre-left (25 percent), centre-right (24 percent), and right (23 percent).
“A common criticism of news media is whether or not they fairly represent all segments of the population,” the ARI said. “One can see that those on the Centre-Right and Right of the Index are vastly more likely to say that the stories they care about are not being told, and they are not being represented.”
While two in five (39 percent) Canadians overall believe the media cover their political beliefs unfairly, two-thirds (67 percent) of those in the right segment say Canadian media have presented their political beliefs unfairly, and two in five (39 percent) in the centre-right group say the same. By contrast, just 29 percent in the centre-left and 23 percent in the left say so.
On the issue of trust in media, two-thirds (67 percent) of those in the right segment say they don’t trust most of the stories reported by Canadian media—triple the proportion of those in the left (20 percent) who say the same. For those in the centre-right, 41 percent say they don’t trust the media, while 33 percent of those in the centre-left say so.
Overall, more than one-third (39 percent) of Canadians, a significant proportion, say most of the stories in the news can’t be trusted. This rises to 47 percent among younger Canadians aged 18 to 34. Women over age 54 have the highest trust in Canadian media, with 74 percent believing that news organizations do a good job presenting the facts.
Expectations From Reporting
The survey also found that Canadians have considerable doubt about their compatriots’ ability to discern fact from fiction. Nine out of ten (91 percent) say they are worried about others in the country not having this ability in an increasingly online environment.
Notably, the survey found that seven in ten (70 percent) Canadians say facts are real, established ideas or concepts that can’t be argued against, while the rest believe facts are subjective and thus can be real to one person and not to another.
When asked what is expected from news reporting, a large majority (84 percent) of respondents say that stories on social and political issues should reflect a range of perspectives and that news media should let viewers decide what is true. Meanwhile, just 7 percent said news outlets should use their own judgment and argue for views that they believe are more beneficial to the audience.
“Canada is made up of myriad perspectives, and 84 percent of Canadians say that news media should reflect a range of different views and leave it up to viewers to decide what is of value,” the survey said.
“Perhaps the significant lack of trust among Canadians is because of a gap between expectations of what the news should be and how they see the news reported to them.”
The ARI said this perspective on the role of news media is “near uniform” across the CVI groups. The proportion of those who believe the media should provide competing views rather then conveying their own judgment ranges from four in five (82 percent) of those in the left, centre-left, and centre-right groups to nine in ten (88 percent) of those in the right segment.
The think tank also said the survey helps to portray how the Canadian values can change over a five-year period. Comparing this latest survey with the one conducted in 2016, the ARI said “it is evident that a notable shift has taken place.”
Examples can be seen in other questions asked, such as an increase in the proportion of Canadians who prefer “more public support for the disadvantaged,” which rose from 51 percent in 2016 to 57 percent in 2022. The proportion of Canadians who prefer a system that “rewards hard work and initiative,” on the other hand, fell from 49 percent in 2016 to 43 percent this year.
The ARI survey was conducted online from Nov. 8 to Nov. 15, 2021, among a representative randomized sample of 4,000 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The survey carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.