Most Albertans did not support Freedom Convoy, University of Alberta survey suggests

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Trucks parked in protest of COVID-19 rules in downtown Ottawa Feb. 2, 2022, during Freedom Convoy demonstrations. (Christian Milette/CBC/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Trucks parked in protest of COVID-19 rules in downtown Ottawa Feb. 2, 2022, during Freedom Convoy demonstrations. (Christian Milette/CBC/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A majority of Albertans did not support the goals of the Freedom Convoy, or the means protesters used to try and achieve them, a recent survey from the University of Alberta suggests.

The online survey was carried out in the spring, in partnership with the research firm Pollara, and received 2,224 responses.

"We wanted to see … once people had time to reflect and digest what happened, did they still support the objectives and the methods of the convoy?" said Feo Snagovsky, assistant professor of political science at the University of Alberta.

"We found overwhelmingly that they didn't."

Submitted by Feodor Snagovsky
Submitted by Feodor Snagovsky

Sixty-one per cent of people who responded said they disagreed with the goals of the convoy.

Sixty-seven per cent said they opposed the convoy's methods, which included shutting down the area around Ottawa's Parliament Hill and blocking border crossings between Canada and the United States.

Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, said the research adds a more nuanced understanding of Albertans' political views.

"In light of recent events — notably the verbal attack on Chrystia Freeland, the fact that Tamara Lich and other people associated with the convoy live in Alberta and are associated with some elements of Alberta — this gives a more balanced picture of where Albertans as a whole actually sit on the convoy," said Williams, who was not involved in the research.

Political party

"Many of those who support some of the concerns that have been raised, do not support the tactics."

The survey found people's opinions of the convoy varied based on factors like political affiliation and geography.

New Democrat respondents were overwhelmingly opposed to the convoy, while supporters of the United Conservative Party were more split.

Fifty-six per cent of UCP respondents supported the convoy's goals, and 48 per cent supported the convoy's methods.

In comparison, just 14 per cent of NDP respondents supported the convoy's objectives, and seven per cent supported the group's means of achieving them.

Urban-rural divide

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

There was slightly more support for the convoy protesters' objectives in rural areas than in urban ones.

Snagovsky noted that's likely because rural areas tend to be more conservative.

"So where you have more conservative identifiers, more people who see themselves as a right of centre, you're also going to have more people who support the convoy," he said.

In Edmonton, 70 per cent of survey respondents said they opposed the convoy's objectives. In both Red Deer and in areas outside the Calgary-Edmonton corridor, there was 53 per cent support for these objectives.

Similarly, when asked about the convoy's methods, 76 per cent of Edmontonians surveyed said they were opposed. But in areas outside of the Calgary-Edmonton corridor, there was 55 per cent opposition and 45 per cent support.

Was it a success?

Snagovsky noted there has been some debate about whether the Freedom Convoy was successful, in part because some COVID-19 restrictions were dropped around the time of the February protests in Ottawa and the U.S.-Canada border blocking in Coutts, Alta.

"There was a debate about whether the convoy achieved its objectives or whether it was just really good timing," he said.

But in surveying Albertans, Snagovsky found just under a quarter (23 per cent) of Albertans polled thought the protest was successful, while 58 per cent considered it a failure and 19 per cent said it was neither.

"Based on whether it changed hearts and minds, I think we can conclude that it probably did not achieve its objective," he said.

Colin Hall/CBC
Colin Hall/CBC

As ballots in the United Conservative Party leadership race are sent out, Williams said the results of this survey could be meaningful for voters and candidates.

"[It's] putting into perspective where most Albertans sit and the need to respond not just to those who are, let's say, on the further right end of the spectrum, but as leader of the party and Premier of the province would have to represent Alberta as a whole," she said.

As for Snagovsky and his team at the University of Alberta, he said this will be the first in a series of research briefs about people who supported the Freedom Convoy, and how they'll engage with Canadian politics going forward.

"This cohort of people is going to play an important role in Canadian politics moving forward and it's important to start looking at them," he said.