March 1, 2024

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French and English: A vital component of Canadian identity

French and English: A vital component of Canadian identity

WASHINGTON — Canadians are more likely than their American counterparts to view language, customs and traditions as a central part of their national identity, a new survey suggests.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, 84% of respondents said that speaking English or French is very or somewhat important to Canadian identity.

Only 15% said speaking one of Canada's two official languages ​​was of little or no importance.

However, in the United States, only 78% of respondents prioritize English speaking ability, while 21% think the opposite.

“Of the four dimensions of national identity included in the survey, language is the most valued,” Pew said in its poll report.

“In all the countries we asked about it, eight in ten or more people think language is important to people of real nationality. And in 13 countries, at least six in ten think it's the most important factor.

Yet, while the majority of respondents on language in all 21 countries consider it an important aspect of their country's national identity, the percentage of respondents who hold this view is much lower in the United States.

The majority of Canadians surveyed – 81% – associate customs and traditions with their national identity. But it represents a nine-point drop since the last time the question was asked in Canada in 2016.

Again, participants in the United States were less likely to make the same connection: Only 71% said customs and traditions are somewhat or very important to being American, while 28% said the opposite.

However, if the results are analyzed by political allegiance, the picture changes. 87% of American respondents who identify as right-wing say customs and traditions are important, 34 percent more than those on the left.

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In Canada, 86% of conservative-leaning respondents felt the same, compared to 68% of left-leaning participants.

Similar gaps emerged when it came to language. Ninety percent of right-wing people in America value speaking English, compared to 58% at the other end of the political spectrum. In Canada, the gap was narrower: 88% and 79%, respectively.

Respondents in the United States were almost evenly divided on whether birthplace was an important factor: 50% said yes, while 49% said the opposite. However, in Canada, 66% say it doesn't matter, compared to 33% who say the opposite.

Middle-income countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Kenya and South Africa, are the most likely to value birth within their borders, while Sweden and Australia lead those who value place of birth the least.

“Countries where immigrants represent a smaller share of the population tend to see place of birth as a more important component of national identity,” the study says.

“Countries with large numbers of immigrants are more willing to accept foreign-born people as bona fide citizens,” it added.

The Canadian Division survey was conducted by telephone with 1,007 people across Canada between February and April 2023, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 per cent.