Most Canadians willing to support visible minority candidates politically, poll suggests

Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh would like to become the next federal leader of the NDP. A new survey suggests the majority of Canadians would vote for a party led by a Sikh candidate, such as Singh. Photo from CP.

A Sikh man can one day become prime minister of Canada, but the odds of him winning would be quite narrow, a new poll suggests.

The poll from the Angus Reid Institute proposes that the majority of Canadians are open to voting for parties led by people from different visible minority groups, including Sikhs, but their level of openness varies depending on the demographic.

Nearly all Canadians surveyed showed near-unanimous support for a woman (96 per cent) or a black person (94 per cent) to run for office. At least 80 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to vote for a party led by a Jewish person (86 per cent), an Indigenous person (85 per cent), a gay man (85 per cent), a lesbian (84 per cent) or an atheist (80 per cent).

Support seems to dwindle when it comes to specific types of candidates, according to the poll. For example, only 69 per cent of respondents say they would support a transgender person. When it comes to supporting religious candidates, the majority of Canadians surveyed said they would back evangelical Christian candidates (65 per cent), Sikh people (63 per cent) or Muslim politicians (58 per cent).

The poll suggests 56 per cent of Canadians could vote for a man who wears a religious head covering, such as Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh, a federal NDP leadership candidate. A little more than half of Canadian respondents (53 per cent) said they would be willing to support a woman who covers her head for religious reasons.

Angus Reid concluded that based on these numbers, there appears to be enough people in Canada open to supporting a Sikh for prime minister, but that person would be drawing from a much smaller pool of potential Canadian voters in comparison to other demographics. For example, support for a Jewish candidate is 30 per cent higher versus a Sikh person, according to the poll results.

But if a Sikh man who wears a religious head covering, like Singh does, is looking for a part of Canada to increase support, it seems his time would be better spent outside of Quebec. Nearly two-thirds of Quebecers surveyed said they could not vote for someone with a turban.

Perhaps the secret to political success for diverse candidates lies in their ability to attract younger people to the polls. This group tends to be more open to voting for a party led by a minority group, according to Angus Reid.