Obama love-in has little impact on how Canadians view Americans, poll finds

What a difference a president makes.

What a difference a president makes. Well not that much actually, according to a new poll on Canadian attitudes toward Americans.

The survey to be released Monday suggests Canadians view U.S. President Barack Obama far more favourably and with considerably less contempt than they did his predecessor, George W. Bush.

At the same time, according to the poll, Obama has had little by way of a halo effect: Canadians view Americans in much the same light as they did four years ago, when Bush was at the height of his presidential reign.

“There are underlying, enduring currents of skepticism, distrust and even perhaps anti-Americanism in Canada which (Obama’s) election has not fundamentally changed,” said Andrew Cohen, president of the Historica-Dominion Institute.

The Innovative Research poll for the institute, which coincides with the first anniversary of Obama’s milestone election as the first black president in the U.S., finds 86 per cent of Canadians asked view him favourably.

Just seven per cent don’t like what they see.

By contrast, a similar poll in November 2005 indicated that 73 per cent didn’t like Bush. Only 21 per cent viewed him positively.

Obama was viewed “very favourably” by almost one in two Canadians, compared to just one in 20 feeling that way toward Bush, according to the poll obtained by The Canadian Press.

However, the White House incumbent has had little effect on how Canadians feel toward Americans.

“People have a slightly more positive view of the U.S (under Obama),” Simon McDougall, senior consultant with Innovative Research, said from Montreal.

“But really, the big story is that it hasn’t changed that much what they think of the country.”

Under Obama, 71 per cent indicated a favourable view of Americans, just three points higher than under Bush in 2005.

Similarly, Obama’s popularity appeared to have had little influence on whether Canadians see the United States as a force for good in the world.

Canadians split almost down the middle on that question — with Quebecers holding the most jaundiced view.

Asked whether they feel at home in the U.S., 48 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they did, while 40 per cent said they did not.

Cohen called that surprising “given all that we have in common as two peoples.”

Among Canadians, Quebecers in particular, are likely to feel out of place in the United States, with only one in three saying they feel at home south of the border.

The roiling debate over health care in the United States appears to have made Canadians feel even better about their own system.

In 2005, 71 per cent of Canadians said they would get better care here in case of serious illness. That pecentage has now grown to 77 per cent.

The Historica-Dominion Institute is a national charitable organization focused on promoting a greater understanding of Canada’s history and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

The survey of 1,018 Canadians taken Oct. 22 to Oct. 26 is said to have a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20 for its national results.

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