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Rising number of Canadians ready to rethink country's relationship with the monarchy: poll

Prince Charles remains royally unpopular with Canadians.
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For the third year in a row, Research Co. and Glacier Media asked Canadians about the monarchy.

Some of the numbers we track have been remarkably consistent. We have learned that Canadians are more likely to prefer Prince William as the next King, that Prince Charles – first in line to become monarch – is troubled by a lack of favourability only rivalled by his second and current wife, and that even Canadians who do not care much about the institution hold positive views on Queen Elizabeth II.

The events of the past few weeks provided a good opportunity to see if our perceptions have changed. The long foreseen “de-royalling” of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan will materialize soon, complete with that most American of coming-out ceremonies: an Oprah Winfrey interview. For the past few days, Prince Philip has been in hospital recovering from an infection.

Some Canadians have used their pandemic television time to enjoy more contemporary episodes of the series “The Crown.” Last but not least, Canadians will soon ponder a new full-time nomination to the Governor General position after serious allegations of misconduct and abuse from the current representative of the Queen towards staff.

First, let us focus on the findings that have not changed dramatically. Queen Elizabeth II remains immensely popular, with 70% of Canadians expressing a favourable view. Her two grandsons continue to inch closer to that status in Canada, with Prince William at 67% and Prince Harry at 66%. Their wives also fare well, with Duchess Kate reaching 64% and Duchess Meghan at 54%.

Prince Philip saw his rating improve by three points since last year to 51%. His eldest son, Prince Charles, is ranked lower at 41%, down three points since 2020. Duchess Camilla also dropped two points to finish at 30% this year.

The unpopularity of Prince Charles is neither new nor recent. I have been asking Canadians about their “preferred next monarch” since 2007, and the actual heir to the throne has never come close to matching Prince William as the face most want featured in our coins and bills. This year, only 22% of Canadians say they would prefer Prince Charles as the next King. More than a third (35%) continue to believe that Her Majesty should go directly to Prince William.

There is a bit of a shift on the question about the future. This year, 49% of Canadians think Canada will still be a monarchy 20 years from now, down three points since last year. Three in 10 (31%) expect to have an elected head of state by 2041, up four points.

Still, the biggest message that the poll sends is an undeniable increase in the proportion of Canadians who would consider abandoning the monarchy when asked to think about our constitution. This month, 45% of respondents across the country say they want Canada to have an elected head of state, while 24% would prefer for the monarchy to endure, 19% do not care either way and 13% are undecided.

This survey captures by far, the highest proportion of Canadians who are ready to reconsider the country’s relationship to the monarchy. We have a 13-point increase on this particular response since February 2020, and a nine-point decrease among those who simply are oblivious to the topic. Sizable proportions of Quebecers (57%), men (51%), and Liberal Party voters in the 2019 federal election (50%) seem to have already taken the side of a nascent republic if a discussion becomes more serious.

Regardless of whether or not the federal government decides to address this matter, there are ominous signs on the horizon for Prince Charles should he ascend the throne. At this point, the favourability of Queen Elizabeth in Canada reaches 91% among “monarchists,” 66% among “republicanists” and 72% among the “unresponsive.” There are many Canadians who, while yearning for an elected president or caring little about this particular component of our constitutional affairs, have the utmost respect for the Queen.

Prince Charles, in stark contrast, has been unable to establish a positive emotional connection with Canadians. The proportion of favourable views that he elicits among these groups is decidedly lower (58% for “monarchists,” 36% for “republicanists” and 40% for the “unresponsive”). It is going to be extraordinarily difficult for a figure who is only liked by three in five Canadians who actually want to have a King to be successful in taking the Royal Family to the 21st century, especially as previous efforts to portray the heir apparent in a different fashion have failed to move the needle.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online survey conducted from February 21 to February 23, 2021, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.