2024 CanTrust Index reveals low trust in building affordable housing and falling trust in Artificial Intelligence

On the key issues, Canadians are skeptical

· News

Montreal (Quebec), February 13, 2024 – The 2024 CanTrust Index – one of the largest annual studies of trust in Canada, which examines trust in sources of information, institutions and more – shows high economic anxiety, little trust in building affordable housing and declining trust in Artificial Intelligence.

Economic anxiety in 2024 far surpasses pandemic-related concerns even during the height of COVID-19. The study found that two-thirds of Canadians, at 67 per cent (63 per cent in Quebec), say the economy has increased anxiety and stress in their lives compared to 46 per cent of Canadians in 2022 who reported feeling anxiety and stress from the pandemic.

Housing trust in the basement

“Canadians can be trusting people, but right now, they aren’t impressed. Challenged by economic anxiety, our research finds little trust in the three main national party leaders. In addition, trust in all three levels of government to deliver affordable housing is in the basement,” said Bruce MacLellan, Chair of Proof Strategies Inc., which has fielded the annual study since 2016.

Trust in Prime Minister Trudeau has dropped significantly from 46 per cent in 2018 to 25 per cent in 2024. Trust in Pierre Poilievre and Jagmeet Singh in 2024 is only slightly higher, with both tied at 32 per cent. The overall trust across Canada in Premiers remains flat at 33 per cent, while trust in politicians in general is at a new low of 17 per cent.

Just two out of ten (22 per cent) of Canadians have trust in the federal government to deliver affordable housing, a six per cent drop from 2023. Equally low, provinces and municipalities are tied at only 23 per cent trust to operate affordable housing.

In Quebec, the national trend is not being followed in all areas, with an increase in overall trust levels in the province to 47 per cent, the highest of any region in Canada, and up from 43 per cent a year ago. Atlantic Canada was the only other region where overall trust rose, to 40 per cent from 35 per cent a year earlier.

Quebec, however, does follow an overall trend of diminishing trust in its leaders, with trust in Premier François Legault down to 38 per cent from 42 per cent two years ago and 49 per cent in 2020. Quebecers’ trust in Prime Minister Trudeau remained steady at 38 per cent compared to 2022 but down from 40 per cent in 2020. The Quebec level of trust in the prime minister is the highest of any region in Canada but Quebecers’ trust in Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre is the lowest of any region, at 21 per cent compared to 32 per cent in Ontario and 38 per cent on the Prairies.

“As in many areas, Quebecers have their own distinct opinions and outlook compared to the rest of Canada, and this year’s CanTrust Index shows those trends continuing, said Silvie Letendre, President of Capital-Image, the longtime Quebec partner of Proof Strategies. “It remains important for businesses active in Quebec to be aware of and adapt appropriately to those differences, beyond that of language.”

Trust in Artificial Intelligence declines

As the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) advances, trust is fragile and falling with roughly two thirds of Canadians now skeptical. When asked if they trust AI to contribute to the Canadian economy, 33 per cent of Canadians said yes, compared to 39 per cent in 2018. Similarly, 37 per cent of Canadians trust AI to improve their consumer experience, on par with 2018. By region, trust in AI in the economy peaks in Quebec at 37 per cent and is lowest in BC at 29 per cent.

The 2024 study also investigated trust levels in AI to support various sectors. Canadians are skeptical across all sectors from government at 33%, financial services at 29% healthcare at 29% and retail at 22%. Each sector has a job to do to build trust as it expands its use of AI.

Younger generations are more willing to trust AI. When asked if they trust AI to contribute to the economy, 39 per cent of millennials said yes compared to 28 per cent of boomers. Similarly, 43 per cent of millennials trust AI to contribute to the consumer experience compared to 27 per cent of boomers.

Canadians trust their inner circle

Anxious about the state of the economy, Canadians are retreating into their inner sphere of trust with the people they are closest to and feel safest with – friends and family. When asked who they trust for reliable information, 76 per cent of Canadians said friends and family, an 11 per cent increase since 2022.

Leaning on the inner sphere of trust also extends to important issues like climate change. When asked who they trust for reliable information on climate change and its impacts, 54 per cent of Canadians said they trust friends and family, a 14 per cent increase since 2023.

Trust in doctors, scientists, and educators

Beyond their immediate circle, Canadians continue to trust professionals for reliable information: doctors at 78 per cent and scientists at 74 per cent (both up five per cent over last year), and educators at 68 per cent (up eight per cent).

Trust in journalists and the media holds steady

While some voices continue to decry bias or “fake news,” Canadians’ trust in journalists to deliver reliable information rose three points to 49 per cent in 2024 and news on traditional media once again remains the most trusted source of information at 56 per cent. Trust in the CBC/Radio-Canada is at 59 per cent in Quebec compared to a Canadian average of 51 per cent.

While charities grow, business is flat

The charity/NFP sector is steadily building trust, up from 47 per cent in 2022 to 53 per cent in 2024. As examples, the Canadian Red Cross is trusted by 66 per cent and the Nature Conservancy of Canada by 55 per cent. In contrast, trust in large corporations is at 30 per cent and SMBs at 43 per cent. On many urgent issues, the charity sector’s focus on results appears to be building trust.

Less interest in hearing from business

The public appetite for business leaders speaking out on issues has declined in the past year. When it comes to important issues like climate change, racism, and social equity, 49 per cent of Canadians believe that business leaders should speak out regularly, compared to 57 per cent in 2022. On topics, 76 per cent of Canadians say that business should speak out on economic matters while only 32 per cent want to hear from them on international conflicts.

Trust in the election system

“Our results show Canada needs to do better in building trust in our elections. Mediocre is not good enough when it comes to democracy,” said MacLellan. Overall trust in the electoral system is stable at 46 per cent. Between 2019 and 2024, trust that the electoral system is fair has increased slightly to 50 per cent and representative of votes of citizens to 47 per cent.

Significant regional and age differences are concerning. In the Prairies, only 36 per cent agree the system is fair, compared to 54 per cent in Ontario and 52 per cent in Quebec. By age, 47 per cent of GenZ agree the system is fair, compared to 57 per cent of boomers.

Trust can be grown

Trust is not binary. While we focus on those who trust, there are large numbers who fall just below our trust threshold (5-7 out of 7) and rate various categories 4 out of 7. These people are a large cross-section of Canada – they trust some and distrust others. These are the swing-vote of trust. This group can be moved to trusting with positive actions and better communication, but if leaders become complacent, it can go in the other direction. “Most people become trusting when they see reliability, empathy, shared values, and integrity. The question becomes, are leaders willing to try?” added MacLellan.

Other survey findings:

  • Trust in Canada’s Central Bank is stable in 2024 at 49 per cent. Trust for the Bank is higher in Quebec at 55 per cent among younger Canadians, with Gen Z at 53 per cent.
  • Trust in the Canadian military has increased to 59 per cent in 2024 from 52 per cent in 2022.
  • Trust in the RCMP has increased to 55 per cent in 2024 from 48 per cent in 2022. In Quebec, trust in the RCMP now stands at 61 per cent.
  • For the third year in a row, employees give their employer only a “C” grade for ability to build trust with external audiences. (People employed, including all sectors.)

About the 2024 Proof Strategies CanTrust Index

The Proof Strategies CanTrust Index, now in its ninth year, is a leading source of research and understanding of trust in Canada. It studies and analyzes topics, institutions, events and population segments unique to Canada and surveyed 1,501 Canadians between January 3-13 by online panel. The sample is representative of Canadian population statistics by region, age, and gender. Their study uses a 7-point scale with 7 being the highest trust and 1 being the lowest. Respondents choosing 7, 6 or 5 result in the percentages of trust used in this report.

About Proof Strategies

Proof Strategies is a communications, public affairs, and government relations partner that Asks Better Questions™. As an independent agency founded in 1994, Proof Strategies has earned more than 325 awards for client work and industry leadership, including Best Workplace in Canada in 2010 by Great Place to Work™, Large Agency Team of the Year in 2020 and 2023 by the Canadian Public Relations Society and Caring Company Certification since 2022 by Imagine Canada. The Proof Strategies CanTrust Index™ is a leading source of insight on trust in Canada. Learn more at getproof.com

About Capital-Image

Founded 35 years ago, Capital-Image is an integrated communications agency based in Montreal with a team of highly versatile, bilingual professionals. Over the years, the agency has won more than 25 awards of excellence. Capital-Image’s operations are A+ certified, the standard of excellence in professional quality and service for public relations firms in Quebec. In addition, it was one of the first communications agencies in Montreal to be certified carbon neutral.

For almost 30 years, Capital-Image has been the Quebec partner of Proof Strategies - with offices in Toronto, Ottawa and in the US. Learn more at capital-image.com

For further information, please contact:

Alida Alepian