Canadians — you’d think they’d be the most knowledgeable people on the planet.
In 2016, the Great White North ranked first in the share of university and college graduates in the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The share of 25- to 64-year-olds with a college diploma as their highest educational attainment was more than double what it was in OECD countries overall.
Coverage of climate change on Globalnews.ca:
But education does not necessarily equal indication of a populace that’s well-informed on a slate of issues, if the results of a new Ipsos survey are anything to go by.
The polling agency released “Perils of Perception” on Wednesday.
It’s an annual international survey conducted in 37 countries that looks at whether respondents have accurate, or inaccurate ideas about major issues.
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This one ranked Canada 11th out of 37th countries when it came to accurate understandings of major issues.
At that rank, it trailed countries such as Hong Kong (1st), New Zealand (2nd), Sweden (3rd), Hungary (4th) and Great Britain (5th).
One area of misunderstanding — climate change.
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The survey found that Canadians are underestimating the number of years that the planet Earth has set heat records over the last two decades.
It also found that Canadians are overestimating the share of energy that they consume from renewable resources.
This chart from Ipsos shows Canadians underestimating the heat records that have been set in the last 18 years.
Canadians estimated that Earth set heat records in 10 out of the last 18 years.
In reality, the planet set heat records in all but one of those years.
Even though the estimates were off by seven years, Canadians nevertheless ranked fourth out of 37 countries when it came to an accurate understanding of this matter.
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The survey also showed Canadian respondents overestimating how much renewable energy they use.
Respondents estimated the renewable share of their energy use at just over 30 per cent, when really, the share was 22 per cent.
This chart shows how much of their energy use Canadians believe comes from renewables.
The results provided some insight into the difficulties that governments across Canada have faced trying to agree on how to combat climate change, Mike Colledge, president of Canadian public affairs with Ipsos, told Global News.
“You see we miss it by almost 50 per cent,” he said.
“You can understand why it’s hard to get traction for either side of this discussion.”
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Colledge said Canadians are locked in a debate over climate change in which neither side has appeared to convince the other.
“When you try to move people, it is not about moving them with facts,” he said.
“So you have a debate in the country now on climate change, where you have people largely yelling facts over the wall at each other, and if you disagree they call you a denier, and if you disagree on this side they call you a liar.”
He noted in an op-ed that people are unlikely to shift each other’s opinions with facts, that there are “other emotions and values bundled into this debate.”
“There’s no debate bringing people to the middle and saying, let’s understand what the real concerns are around this issue,” he said.
“I’m not absolving anybody… but that’s what’s unfolding.”
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With 15 per cent of Canadian respondents considering climate change one of the top three priorities facing the country, Canada ranked third in terms of its concern, tying it with Germany, Belgium, Australia, Sweden and China.
That was higher than the global average of 11 per cent.
The survey also found an inverse correlation between concern about climate change, and issues such as corruption and crime.
Climate change ranked as a low priority in countries with high crime and heavy poverty, Colledge said.
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Only one per cent of respondents in Argentina, for example, saw it as a major priority.
The issue didn’t rank close to the top when considering averages, either.
Globally, the top issue for countries was financial and political corruption, at 34 per cent.
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It was followed closely by unemployment, at 33 per cent.
When it came to unemployment, it turned out that Canadians were actually overestimating rates in their country.
The survey showed respondents estimating unemployment at 24 per cent, when in fact it’s six per cent — for a gap of 18 per cent.
That demonstrates a level of concern around the economy that goes beyond the metrics, Colledge said.
With people apparently over-concerned about the economy, and perhaps under-concerned about climate change given the facts, Colledge was asked whether there was room for people to dampen their worries about one issue and heighten them about another.
“The space for climate change to grow doesn’t automatically open up because the economy gets better,” he said.
“Unless we can convince people that the economy is better.”
The survey carried out interviews in 37 countries between Sept. 28 and Oct. 16.
About 1,000 people were surveyed as part of the Canadian study. Canada was one of 21 countries in which a representative sample was surveyed.
Data for each question was taken from a variety of verified sources.
When results didn’t sum up to 100, or the difference appeared to be +/- more or less than the actual, this may have been due to rounding, numerous responses or the exclusion of “don’t knows” or not stated responses.
Data were weighted to match the profile of the population.