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Hub Exclusive Poll: Conservatives and Liberals vastly disagree on the reality presented by Canadian news, but agree government funding hurts journalism

News

Then-B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix reads a newspaper in Richmond, B.C., May 7, 2013. Polling in May 2024 shows that Liberal and Conservative Canadians have vastly different views on the content of Canadian news media. Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press.

Canadians of different political persuasions have vastly different views on the quality and content of Canada’s news media, to the degree that they do not seem to be occupying a shared reality.

Exclusive polling for The Hub from Public Square Research shows that nearly half (49 percent) of Canadians Conservatives think Canadian news is mostly biased, depending on who is funding it, and that 40 percent of Conservatives consider much of it to be government propaganda. Thirty-six percent of Conservatives agree they are not getting the truth from mainstream media in this country.

Compare that to 18 percent of Liberal supporters who say most of the news is biased and a mere 7 percent who say a lot of it is government propaganda. Meanwhile, less than 10 percent of Liberals say mainstream outlets aren’t giving them the truth.

Looking beyond partisan perspectives, around 10 percent of all Canadians surveyed say that they know they’re getting the truth from mainstream news in Canada. Liberals appear to trust the mainstream media most. However, their support is far from fulsome, sitting at 26 percent.

There is, however, agreement among various party supporters on how recent government subsidies may impact the quality of Canadian journalism.

The Trudeau government is increasingly subsidising major private Canadian media firms like The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and Postmedia. These measures include subsidies feeding the payrolls of qualified private news media, mandating Google to pay $100 million annually to support the journalism industry, and a tax credit for news subscriptions. As a result, The Hub now estimates there could soon be as much as a 50 percent subsidy on journalist salaries, up to $85,000.

Our polling shows the public is concerned about the detrimental effects these subsidies could have. At least three-quarters of both Liberals and Conservatives agree that the government paying journalists' salaries could undermine the objectivity of journalists, with 86 percent of Conservatives and 75 percent of Liberals in agreement. Eighty-five percent of Conservatives and 71 percent of Liberals believe that government funding will make it more difficult for news media to challenge the government they’re meant to hold accountable.

Nearly 40 percent of Liberals enjoy reading news from all perspectives, even those they disagreed with, as do 35 percent of Conservatives. Interestingly, the outlier was Bloc Quebecois voters, half of whom said they were open to reading news from a variety of viewpoints.

This data matches previous commentary from The Hub which argued that, thanks to a unique cultural climate, Quebeckers have avoided much of illiberalism that has recently befallen Anglophone society, and are willing to engage in dialogue with those who disagree with them.

The polling by Public Square Research surveyed 1,500 adult Canadians between May 28 and June 4.

Government funding of private media outlets will further damage public trust: Five key takeaways from The Hub’s exclusive polling

News

The Globe and Mail debuts its latest redesign Friday December 1, 2017 in Ottawa. Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press.

This week, The Hub published a DeepDive of exclusive polling from Public Square Research on how much the Canadian public trusts the news media and its views on the effects of government subsidies for the industry.

According to a 2023 report from the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford, overall trust in the media among the Canadian population fell from 55 percent in 2016 to 40 percent. Among English-speaking Canadians, only 37 percent now say they trust the media.

The decline in trust comes at a time when the Trudeau government is increasingly intervening to support major private firms in the Canadian media landscape like The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and Postmedia. These measures include subsidies supporting the payrolls of qualified private news media, mandating Google to pay $100 million annually to support the journalism industry, and a tax credit for news subscriptions. At this point, some estimates suggest that there could soon be as much as a 50 percent subsidy on journalist salaries up to $85,000 per year.

Here a five takeaways from our polling on government media subsidies, how they affect how the public views coverage, and alternative approaches to supporting Canadian journalism.

1. Impressions of Canadian news

A quarter of Canadians say that a lot of Canadian news is just “government propaganda.”

Just over 20 percent of Canadians say they don’t think they get the truth from mainstream news in Canada. However, twelve percent say that they are getting the truth from the news.

2. Awareness of Bill C-18, the Online News Act

Just 4 percent of Canadians are fully aware of government legislation (Bill C-18), which mandates Google to contribute $100 million to support the news media industry. Over 70 percent of Canadians are unaware of the legislation, which has been pitched as a way to save the industry.

3. Support for subsidizing private news companies

When it comes to how supportive Canadians are of government subsidies for the salaries of private news organizations, only 4 percent of Canadians are very supportive, and another 26 percent said they are somewhat supportive. Thus, a substantial majority of Canadians—seven in 10—are not very supportive, or not supportive at all.

4. The effects of government funding on trust in news

Canadians overwhelmingly agree that government funding of the country’s news has a negative impact on its inherent goal of objectivity and accountability. Over three-quarters agree that having journalist salaries subsidized by the government impacts objectivity and that when the government funds the news, it’s more difficult for said journalists to hold the government to account.

5. Opinion on reader-funded news

Trust in the media is highest if the media organization is primarily funded by individual readers paying for the news. On the whole, three-in-five Canadians trust media that is funded by readers.

The poll also showed that nearly 70 percent of Canadians think further government funding of the news isn’t required, given that Canada already has a national public broadcaster- the CBC. Documents from the Treasury Board of Canada showed that the CBC has a $1.38 billion budget in 2024-25, up from $1.29 billion for 2023-24.