Canada: Poll shows 46% of Canadians think Islam ‘damages’ Canadian society

Agnus Reid Insitute, November 16, 2017.

Underlying the division on whether the impact of increasing religious diversity on society is good or bad are diverging views about specific religions.

To measure respondents’ perspectives on different religious and faith traditions in Canada today, the Angus Reid Institute asked a series of questions about eight such traditions: Catholicism, Protestantism, Evangelical Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Atheism.

Each respondent was asked about four of the eight at random, with the end result being that roughly half of the sample weighed in on each group.

Respondents were asked about their own familiarity with each tradition, whether they perceived its influence on society as growing or shrinking, and whether they perceived its presence as benefitting or damaging society overall. On each question, significant differences emerge in the way different groups are perceived.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given their relatively small footprints in this country, Hinduism and Sikhism are the least understood practices on the list. Catholicism, meanwhile, is the only tradition that a full majority of Canadians (54%) say they understand either “quite well” or “very well” (see comprehensive tables).

Catholicism is also the religion most likely to be seen as benefitting Canada through its presence in public life – a finding that likely reflects the role the church has historically played in developing schools, hospitals, and other institutions, all of which past research has shown Canadians to view positively.

No other group tops 30 per cent “benefitting,” and only one religion – Islam – is widely seen to be “damaging” Canada, as seen in the graph that follows. Note that totals don’t add up to 100 per cent because respondents were also offered the option to say each group has “no real impact” or to say they were unsure. For full results from these questions, see comprehensive tables.

Twice as many Canadians say the presence of Islam in their country’s public life is damaging as say the same about any other religion, a finding that follows a well-documented pattern in Angus Reid Institute polling in recent years. Namely: if Islam is involved, a significant segment of Canadians will react negatively.

In response to another question in this survey, roughly half of all Canadians (49%) say a woman wearing a niqab – a veil that covers all of the face except the eyes, which some Muslim women wear when out in public – should be “prohibited” from visiting government offices. Another three-in-ten (29%) say such behaviour should be “discouraged but tolerated” (see comprehensive tables).