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Youngest generation most open to public religious expression


November 10, 2021

OTTAWA, ON – Canada’s next generation of leaders appears set to break from the past in several key areas, including its approach to public religiosity, policy priorities, and an appetite for change. New public opinion research by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) in partnership with think tank Cardus suggests leaders among those aged 18 to 29 are the most open toward Canadians in public positions speaking and acting based on their religious faith. At least 60 percent of leaders of all ages say God and religion should be kept completely out of public life, but 40 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds take the opposite stance. That’s the highest rate of acceptance of public faith of any age group studied.

“Younger Canadians value increased religious authenticity, which is positive,” says Ray Pennings, Cardus Executive Vice-President. “Ironically, that openness to religious expression comes from some of the Canadians who are least likely to have grown up within a religious tradition.”

Who is considered a leader? In this survey, respondents answered questions about leadership qualities, such as ambition or the ability to handle stress. They were also asked about activities like volunteering, contacting public officials, or attending protests. Those who scored highest were classified as leaders.

Among the survey’s other findings, leaders under age 40 tend to think of their task as starting over and creating something new, rather than building on the work of past generations. Almost half of leaders in their 20s – and 40% of those in their 30s – favour “starting over,” compared to just about a quarter of those over age 40.

“In some ways, it’s the 1960s all over again,” says Pennings. “Some of that might be due to the stage of life young leaders are at as they’re just getting their feet wet on issues that concern them and their future. But it also seems we’re at a tipping point for social change.”

In terms of priority issues, climate change is tops for leaders (and non-leaders) of all age groups, but things diverge after that. Leaders generally place a higher emphasis on Indigenous reconciliation than non-leaders. Meanwhile, younger Canadians – leaders or not – tend to emphasize housing and income inequality while older Canadians seem more concerned about poverty and especially balanced budgets.

Read the full study on the ARI website.


About the Angus Reid Institute

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.

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Shachi Kurl

Angus Reid Institute - President