A new survey suggests that the political views of most Saskatchewan residents have stayed the same during the pandemic — but of the more than a quarter of respondents who have changed their views, 70 per cent said they have become "more right-leaning," while 30 per cent have become "more left-leaning."
In partnership with CBC Saskatchewan, the Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research (CHASR) at the University of Saskatchewan surveyed 401 provincial residents by telephone on land lines and cell phones from March 7 to 16. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.89 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Respondents were asked if their political views had become more "left-leaning"/liberal, more "right-leaning"/conservative or had stayed the same.
Sixty-one per cent of respondents said they did not change their political views over the last couple years during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, 27.2 per cent said they did change their views.
The poll suggested people in rural areas and smaller cities were more likely to become more right-leaning, while people living in Saskatoon and Regina were more likely to become more left-leaning or to stay the same.
Rural/urban split on opinion of governments' handling of pandemic
Respondents were also asked about their level of satisfaction with the handling of the pandemic by the provincial and federal governments.
More people were satisfied with the provincial government's (52 per cent satisfied) handling of the pandemic than the way the federal government's (39 per cent satisfied).
How satisfied are Saskatchewan residents with how governments handled COVID-19?
Respondents living in rural areas/smaller cities were significantly more satisfied with the way the provincial government handled the pandemic as compared to urban respondents, while respondents living in Saskatoon and Regina were significantly more satisfied than rural/smaller city respondents in the federal government's handling of the pandemic.
Younger respondents (aged 18-34) were significantly more dissatisfied with the way both levels of government handled the pandemic compared to older respondents (aged 35 and older).
Respondents were also asked about their trust in various public institutions.
Based on their answers, researchers at CHASR said the institutions could be clustered into three groups.
Respondents had relatively higher trust in high education institutions, the police and the health-care system; "mid-level trust" in the provincial government and religious organizations; and relatively lower trust in the federal government and the media.
Respondents living in smaller cities or rural had more trust in the provincial government than those living in Saskatoon and Regina.
Meanwhile, respondents living in the province's two major cities had more trust in the federal government than those living in smaller cities or rural areas.
Jason Disano, the director of CHASR, which conducted the survey, said the one thing the responses to all the questions had in common was very strong differences of opinion between urban and rural residents of Saskatchewan.
"I think really what these data tell us is that it's really a tale of two Saskatchewans," he said.
"In this particular survey, the differences are actually quite noticeable. They were quite stark."
The survey was conducted in the weeks after the Saskatchewan government lifted COVID-19 health restrictions such as mandatory masking and vaccine passports.
When CBC News asked if he thought the survey results would have been different had it been conducted before the government announced its plan, Disano said it was possible.
He said people's opinions on these things aren't necessarily static, but rather dynamic and based on what's happening in the environment around them.
"Truly, I do think people's responses to these questions will be different even today than than they would have been a month ago when we fielded the survey," he said.
Sask. residents more pragmatic than ideological: author
Dale Eisler, a political journalist and senior policy fellow at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Regina, addresses the political views of provincial residents in his new book, From Left to Right: Saskatchewan's Political and Economic Transformation.
In an interview with CBC's The Morning Edition host Stefani Langenegger, Eisler said the majority of Saskatchewan people are quite pragmatic and not ideological — and they don't see themselves in real partisan or left/right terms to any large degree.
"If you look at the history of the province in terms of how Saskatchewan people have responded to the challenges and issues they've faced, it's very much a sort of a pragmatic approach to how best to deal with the situation that confronts them," he said.
LISTEN | Author Dale Eisler spoke with host Stefani Langenegger on The Morning Edition:
He said it's about speaking to their issues in a way that's relevant to them and reflects their interests.
"That, at times, might be policies that can be considered more left or right wing, more social democratic or more conservative," he said. "But Saskatchewan people are pretty reasonable in that way."
Eisler said he doesn't think characterizing politics as a battle of the left and right is the proper way to view the nature of the political discourse in the province.
"Saskatchewan people, in large measure, are centrist," he said. "Governments that are centre-right, centre-left, I think, are going to be the most successful."
Other survey results
In other results from the CHASR/CBC poll about trust in public institutions, women who responded to the survey had more trust in the police than men who responded.
Respondents living in smaller cities/rural areas had more trust in police than those living in Saskatoon/Regina, and older respondents (35 and older) had more trust than younger ones (18-34).
When it comes to the health-care system, middle-aged respondents (35-54) had more trust in the system than older people (55 and older).
Meanwhile, older respondents (35 and older) had more trust in higher education institutions than younger ones (18-34).
As for religious organizations, women respondents had more trust in them than men who responded to the survey.
Respondents living in smaller cities/rural areas had more trust in religious organizations than people living in Saskatoon/Regina, and older respondents (35 and older) had more trust than younger ones (18-34).