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Opinion: Popularity of monarchy and Royal Family sinking fast in Canada

Practically half of Canadians now say that their preference would be to have an elected head of state, new survey finds.
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The British Royal Family has taken some public-opinion lumps in Canada over the past year.

A review of the way Canadians feel about the monarchy has become an annual tradition at Research Co. and Glacier Media. We usually tackle this task in the last days of February, asking questions about Canada’s Constitution, individual members of the Royal Family and the future.

It is fair to say that a lot has happened over the past 12 months. We had a highly publicized interview featuring Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, with Oprah Winfrey, the appointment of Mary Simon as Canada’s 30th governor general, the extraordinary allegations levelled against Prince Andrew that have now been settled without a trial in the United States, and, more recently, the announcement from Queen Elizabeth II that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will assume the title of Queen Consort once Prince Charles ascends the throne.

When we compare the results of this year to previous iterations, some fluctuations are particularly remarkable. For starters, the favourability rating of all the members of the Royal Family is lower now than last year. Queen Elizabeth II is regarded positively by 64 per cent of Canadians, down six points since 2021.

If you assumed that the Oprah interview would help raise the likability of the two participants in Canada, the numbers tell a different story. Positive perceptions of Prince Harry fell to 50 per cent in 2022 from 64 per cent in 2021. Duchess Meghan also saw a double-digit decline, to 44 per cent from 54 per cent.

The usually popular Prince William also experienced a drop (58 per cent, down nine points) and is now outranked by his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (60 per cent, down four points). The group of Canadians who express fondness for the person who will ultimately take over as monarch is also getting smaller. Only 35 per cent of Canadians (down six points) hold favourable views of Prince Charles, and even fewer (27 per cent, down three points) feel the same way about Duchess Camilla.

The situation for Prince Charles is particularly calamitous, as every year fewer Canadians look at him as “monarch material.” When Canadians are asked their wishes for succession, 34 per cent say they would rather have Prince William as King after Queen Elizabeth II, while 17 per cent prefer Prince Charles. Another 34 per cent believe there should be no monarch after the current one – the highest level since 2010.

In seven different surveys conducted since 2007, the idea of Prince Charles as King has never been endorsed by more than one in four Canadians. This year’s total of 17 per cent is the lowest recorded on this question and down five points since last year.

A significant preoccupation for Prince Charles is the lack of support from what, to borrow a political term, would be considered his base. Canadians who would like to see the monarchy continue believe that Prince William is better suited for the role (50 per cent) than Prince Charles (36 per cent). It would seem that even those devoted to the monarchy share the view expressed by Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1995 during an interview with BBC Panorama and are wary of the “enormous limitations” that the “top job” will bring to the one person that is directly eligible for it.

Practically half of Canadians (49 per cent, up four points) now say that their preference when thinking about Canada’s Constitution is to have an elected head of state, while just 21 per cent (down three points) favour keeping the monarchy in place.

Quebec is home to the lowest proportion of Canadians who would like to see the country remain a monarchy (14 per cent). The numbers are only marginally better in Atlantic Canada (17 per cent) and British Columbia (20 per cent), and slightly higher in Ontario (23 per cent), Alberta (29 per cent) and Saskatchewan and Manitoba (31 per cent).

Attachment to a Canada that features a monarch is low across the political spectrum. Less than a third of Canadians who voted for the Conservative Party of Canada (28 per cent), the Liberal Party of Canada (25 per cent) and the New Democratic Party (NDP) (20 per cent) in last year’s federal election openly endorse the status quo.

In spite of the severe drop in favourability for all members of the Royal Family and the desire of almost half of Canadians to abandon the monarchy, there is currently little expectation that a substantial constitutional change will occur. We continue to see practically half of Canadians (48 per cent, down one point) who believe Canada will still be a monarchy two decades from now.

Canadians are becoming more enthused with the possibility of having an elected head of state, particularly as the one who will take over as monarch is exceedingly unpopular. Still, there is no variation in the belief that someone will spearhead a process that would allow Canadians to vote for this position in the next two decades. •

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from February 20 to February 22, 2022, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.