The Baromètre CIRANO 2018 which takes stock of Quebecers’ concerns and perceptions on 47 societal issues, provides a better understanding of the citizens’ expectations and aspirations towards various topics such as access to health and education services, economy and personal finances, transportation infrastructures, environment, large-scale energy projects, and immigration.
Without any surprise, health represents – as always – the main source of concerns for Quebecers as reported in CIRANO’s Baromètre since its creation in 2011. Particularly, the vast majority (79%) of Quebecers considers that the over saturation of emergency rooms represents a major risk for the province. However, their concerns in regards to access to health services seem to have diminished as the percentage in 2011 was at 77% and is now at 70% for 2018. This leads us to believe that the efforts granted towards improving the access to a family doctor have contributed to appease Quebecers’ worries in that regard. Actually, the proportion of the population in Quebec registered with a family doctor rose from 56% in 2011 to 70% in 2018 according to data published by the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec
Despite the fact that education remains a major concern for Quebecers, the portrait that is brought forth is globally positive and improving with time. Thus, the percentage of the population which considers that access to education represents ‘’a big or very big risk’ in Quebec has considerably decreased over the last two years, going from 37% in 2016 to 28% in 2018. The same goes for school dropout which seems to be a lesser concern for Quebecers this year (40%) than in 2016 (49%). In addition, faith in government management for those two issues has increased over the years. An interesting fact: school dropout seems to be a bigger concern for francophones while access to university level studies mainly appeal to allophones.
Quebecers are as preoccupied as ever by personal economic and financial risks but collectively less so than in 2016. In addition, the perceived risk for the majority of economic issues included in the study has decreased since 2016. In addition, 59% of them are worried by a possible increase in cost of living and interest rates (against 65% in 2016), and 51% fear for retirement revenues and retirement plans solvency (57% in 2016). As for unemployment, we note a significant decrease in the perceived risk: 26% of the population today perceive this as a high risk (this represents only 9% of the respondents in the greater Montreal area) while they were at 46% to believe so in 2016. The results of the Baromètre CIRANO 2018 reveal that Quebecers are increasingly less preoccupied by household debt (57% in 2018 versus 69% in 2013). Unfortunately, this perception seems to translate into reality with a constantly increasing household debt rate in Quebec since 2013. In that context, increased awareness for healthier consumption habits is a must for Quebecers.
The question of shortage of manpower is undeniably raised in the current context of full employment. In this regard, it seems that Quebecers perceive immigration as a part of the solution. Thus, 59% are favorable to the integration of immigrants and 68% even perceive the benefits for Quebec. However, some are somewhat concerned by immigration: Women (53% against 43% of men), senior citizens aged between 55-74 years old (55% against 39% of those under 35) and francophones (50% against 36% of anglophones and 31% of allophones). Position and education level also greatly influence the perceptions towards immigration.
Environment and Energy Projects
In 2018, Quebecers continue to demonstrate sensitivity towards environmental questions. More than half of them (52%) consider that climate changes represent a ‘’big or very big risk’’ for our society. As for energy projects, Baromètre CIRANO 2018 reveals that 65% of Quebecers are opposed to the exploration of shale gas and that only 13% of them perceive this type of project as ‘’rather or very beneficial’’ for the Quebec economy. Meanwhile, the exploration of oil still seems to divide Quebecers: 48% are opposed (against 51% in 2016) and 25% see some benefits (23% in 2016). However, the perceived risk level for those two issues has decreased since 2016: 39% of the population believe that the exploration of shale gas represents a ‘’big or very big risk’’(41% in 2016) while this proportion rises to 33% when we question them on oil exploration (39% in 2016).
On a collective level, and representing the third main source of concern, transportation infrastructures still evidently worry Quebecers. Their apprehension towards that risk has even risen over the last few years: going from 64% in 2016 to 67% this year. Their level of confidence towards the government’s capabilities to fix the situation seems to dissolve: 55% of Quebecers affirm that they have ‘’no or rather no’’ confidence in the State to manage the status of the transportation infrastructures while that percentage was 44% in 2016. Those perceptions seem rather represent the great number of current projects and the visible transportation obstacles than the real state of road infrastructures. Actually, the data published by the Quebec Transportation Ministry and the City of Montreal make no mention of a deterioration of the situation.
In light of those results, one finding emerges: Some perceptions are the reflection of reality while others are getting farther from it. However, that dissonance between perception and reality may sometimes bring about serious consequences. Thus, the importance of communicating the right messages to the population and circulate the real data maintains. Especially in the context in which our research reveals a systematic decrease in the use of information sources by Quebecers. It is however reassuring to note that the only ones from whom the population seeks more information (17%) are the experts (against 14% in 2016).
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