As Canadians mark Sir John A’s 200th birthday, a new poll measures Canadians’ knowledge of our first Prime Minister

January 14, 2015

As Canadians mark Sir John A’s 200th birthday, a new poll measures Canadians’ knowledge of our first Prime Minister

Toronto, ON – January 14, 2015 An Ipsos Reid poll commissioned by Historica Canada found one in four Canadians can’t identify the country’s first Prime Minister.

With Sir John A Macdonald’s 200th birthday just behind us and Canada’s 150th rapidly approaching, the poll aimed to measure Canadians’ knowledge of Sir John A and Confederation. While 26% could not name Canada’s first Prime Minister, that number has dropped significantly compared with past polls. In a 2008 poll, 42% of Canadians couldn’t identify Sir John A, and in 2001 nearly half (49%) of respondents answered incorrectly.

This leap comes after a number of initiatives launched to boost recognition of Sir John A. The government of Canada officially declared January 11 as Sir John A Macdonald Day in 2002, in honour of his birthday.  In 2012, Historica ran a Sir John A Day program and contest, reaching about 13,000 schools across Canada, and earlier this year it released a new Heritage Minute on Sir John A’s role in Confederation, which has been viewed close to 40,000 times online and is broadcast on major networks. A learning tool to accompany the Minute has been sent to 50,000 teachers across the country.  

“If Sir John A. had not existed, Canada might not either,” said Anthony Wilson-Smith, President of Historica Canada. “He was a brilliant, flawed complex man – and understanding his legacy helps us to better understand our country and how we came to be this way.”

The poll also found that one in four (28%) of Canadians could not identify 1867 as the year of Canada’s Confederation.

Historica Canada is the country’s largest organization dedicated to enhancing awareness of Canada’s history and citizenship.

Full survey results available here.

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted between June 17th to 19th, 2014 on behalf of Historica Canada. For this survey, a sample of 1,001 Canadians from Ipsos' Canadian online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval.  In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/- 3.5 percentage points had all Canadians adults been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.


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