More than half of Canadians under 40 see Baby Boomer legacy as negative: poll

A new poll by the Angus Reid Institute released Wednesday displays the sharp differences in beliefs between generations in Canada.

The poll, which analyzed respondents engagement and advocacy for their personal positions and viewpoints, breaking them down into cohorts of “leaders,” and “others” by age, presented several scenarios and questions to better understand the challenges facing Canada and how they are perceived by different generations.

The poll asked respondents to self-report if they considered themselves leaders in their communities and rated themselves on their ability to affect change. Some of the ways engagement and advocacy was measured was by asking if respondents contacted public officials, volunteered or attended protests.

The age categories were broken down into respondents aged 18 to 29 years-old, 30 to 40 years-old, 41 to 54 years-old, 55 to 64 years-old and 65 years of age and older.


Angus Reid reported that many younger Canadian leaders prefer the idea of starting over rather than building on the foundations made by previous generations, with 47 per cent of respondents 18 to 29 years old and 40 per cent of respondents 30 to 40 years old believing that the future development of Canadian society requires beginning again and restructuring the country differently.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a huge rise in government spending and inflation, something that older, non-leader Canadians are concerned about. Younger Canadians who are leaders are more concerned with economic inequality and housing prices, according to the poll.

While climate change was the major concern across all age cohorts surveyed, a generational divide is seen when the poll broke down questions about values and trade offs when it comes to addressing the climate crisis.

For example, 80 per cent of leaders aged 18 to 29 believe that environmental protection should be emphasized over economic growth, compared to 58 per cent of leaders aged 41 to 54, and 67 per cent of leaders aged 65 and older.

Angus Reid notes that Canadians’ focus on issues affecting Indigenous communities spiked in the summer after the May rediscovery of the graves of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School site in B.C., but has since declined.

When asked how important reconciliation is between Indigenous communities and Canadians to them, the respondents again showed a divide by age, but more so between “others” than leaders.

Fifty per cent of young leaders, aged 18 to 29, said reconciliation was very important to them, compared to 40 per cent of “others” in that age cohort.

Sixty per cent of leaders aged 30 to 40 said reconciliation is very important, compared to 38 per cent of others in the same group.

Forty-seven per cent of leaders aged 65 and older said reconciliation is very important to them.

Leaders, especially those 40 and under are also much more likely to believe white people benefit from societal advantages that visible minorities do not have, according to the poll, with 76 per cent of 18 to 29 years old and 78 per cent of 30 to 40 year-old leaders saying as such.

Generational differences were also explored in the poll, with Angus Reid explaining that the “cohort” effect is the idea that generations can hold distinct outlooks formed by specific events or unique historical circumstances they experienced.

Angus Reid said that this can also be seen in the way generations view themselves, such as millennials referring to themselves as the “unluckiest” generation, coming of age with lower wages and skyrocketing housing prices. The COVID-19 pandemic represents the second major economic shutdown of their careers after the 2008 recession, the Institute said.

More than 40 per cent of respondents under the age of 41 consider their generation to be unlucky, whereas the vast majority of older Canadians say their generations have been lucky, as reported by more than nine in ten respondents aged 65 and older.

Property ownership was another question that showed a clear divide, with respondents above the age of 41 saying it was one of the three areas they’ve been particularly lucky in, whereas 82 to 88 per cent of those 40 and under say their generation is unlucky when it comes to the prospect of owning a home or property.

How the legacy of the Baby Boomers also differed greatly across age cohorts.

Respondents 55 to 64 and 65 and older overwhelmingly, at 75 to 87 per cent, rated the Boomer’s legacy as positive, compared to those 40 and under where a majority rated it as negative, and approximately 25 per cent who rated it very negative.

Angus Reid reported that the perceptions reversed when respondents were asked how they expect the millennial generation to leave things, in better or worse shape than the Baby Boomers.

For this question, 60 per cent of leaders aged 18 to 29 and 56 per cent of leaders aged 30 to 40 said millennials will leave things better than the Baby Boomers, but only 20 per cent of leaders aged 65 and older think the same.

When asked about their emotional attachment to Canada, again a generational divide is seen.

The majority of respondents 41 and older said they have a strong emotional attachment to Canada, that they love the country and what it stands for.

However, younger generations view their relationship to the country differently, with 57 to 58 per cent of 18 to 29 year olds and 46 to 48 per cent of 30 to 40 year olds seeing Canada as a place where they live, but would not be opposed to pursuing opportunities elsewhere.

Younger people surveyed are also more open to what Angus Reid called a “deeper cultural pluralism,” with the majority of respondents aged 18 to 29 (both leaders and others) saying cultural diversity should be encouraged, with different groups keeping their own customs and languages.

As the cohorts get older, they are more likely to believe that minorities should do more to fit in with mainstream society, with 52 per cent of leaders and 61 per cent of others aged 65 and older saying as such.

However, there are some things that tie the generations together, both of which are overarching beliefs about society, according to the poll.

A majority of those surveyed, 66 to 77 per cent, believe in working for the common good, and 86 to 96 per cent hold a strong belief that individuals can make a difference.


The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from July 26 – Aug. 2, 2021, among a representative randomized sample of 4,094 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 1.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI. This included an augmented survey sample of those who qualified as “leaders” in several pre-screening surveys.

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