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2024 CanTrust Index Reveals Low Trust in Building Affordable Housing and Falling Trust in Artificial Intelligence

February 13, 2024

2024 Proof Strategies CanTrust Index™ shows that on the key issues, Canadians are skeptical.

February 13, 2024 – Toronto, ON – The 2024 CanTrust Index – one of the largest annual studies of trust in Canada, which examines trust in sources of information, institutions and more – shows high economic anxiety, little trust in building affordable housing and declining trust in Artificial Intelligence. 

Economic anxiety in 2024 far surpasses pandemic-related concerns even during the height of COVID-19 in 2022. The study found that two-thirds of Canadians, at 67 per cent, say the economy has increased anxiety and stress in their lives compared to 46 per cent of Canadians in 2022 who reported feeling anxiety and stress from the pandemic.

Housing trust in the basement

“Canadians can be trusting people, but right now, they aren’t impressed. Challenged by economic anxiety, our research finds little trust in the three main national party leaders. In addition, trust in all three levels of government to deliver affordable housing is in the basement,” said Bruce MacLellan, Chair of Proof Strategies Inc., which has fielded the annual study since 2016.

Trust in Prime Minister Trudeau has dropped significantly from 46 per cent in 2018 to 25 per cent in 2024. Trust in Pierre Poilievre and Jagmeet Singh in 2024 is only slightly higher, with both tied at 32 per cent. The overall trust across Canada in Premiers remains flat at 33 per cent, while trust in politicians in general is at a new low of 17 per cent.

Just two out of 10 (22 per cent) of Canadians have trust in the federal government to deliver affordable housing, a six per cent drop from 2023. Equally low, provinces and municipalities are tied at only 23 per cent trust to operate affordable housing.

“Addressing critical issues like our housing crisis requires collaboration between all levels of government, and half of Canadians just don’t think that’s going to happen,” added MacLellan. “In 2024, only 51 per cent of Canadians trust the federal and provincial governments to reach collective agreements. Canadian political leaders need to work harder at building trust.”

Trust in Artificial Intelligence declines

As the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) advances, trust is fragile and falling with roughly two thirds of Canadians now skeptical. When asked if they trust AI to contribute to the Canadian economy, 33 per cent of Canadians said yes, compared to 39 per cent in 2018. Similarly, 35 per cent of Canadians trust AI to improve their consumer experience, on par with 2018 at 37 per cent. By region, trust in AI in the economy peaks in Quebec at 37 per cent and is lowest in BC at 29 per cent.

The 2024 study also investigated trust levels in AI to support various sectors. Canadians are skeptical across all sectors from government at 33 per cent, financial services at 29 per cent healthcare at 29 per cent and retail at 22 per cent. Each sector has a job to do to build trust as it expands its use of AI.

Younger generations are more willing to trust AI. When asked if they trust AI to contribute to the economy, 39 per cent of millennials said yes compared to 28 per cent of boomers. Similarly, 43 per cent of millennials trust AI to contribute to the consumer experience compared to 27 per cent of boomers.

“There are no shortcuts when it comes to trust and technology innovation. There’s trust in technology, trust in the companies that use it, and trust in how technology will be used — leaders need to address and communicate around all three areas, especially when it comes to emerging technology, along with how this all aligns with company values.” said Vanessa Eaton, President of Proof Strategies Inc.

Canadians trust in their inner circle increases

Anxious about the state of the economy, Canadians are retreating into their inner sphere of trust with the people they are closest to and feel safest with – friends and family. When asked who they trust for reliable information among different categories of people, 76 per cent of Canadians said friends and family, an 11 per cent increase since 2022. 

Leaning on the inner sphere of trust also extends to important issues like climate change. When asked who they trust for reliable information on climate change and its impacts, 54 per cent of Canadians said they trust friends and family, a 14 per cent increase since 2023.

Trust in doctors, scientists, and educators

Beyond their immediate circle, Canadians continue to trust professionals for reliable information: doctors at 78 per cent and scientists at 74 per cent (both up five per cent over last year), and educators at 68 per cent (up eight per cent).

“Canadians continue to respect and trust professionals as reliable information sources, regardless of age, region or education,” added Eaton. “It’s a good lesson for other leaders and organizations. Competency, empathy, benevolence, and acting with integrity are known drivers of trust.”

Trust in journalists and the media holds steady

While some voices continue to decry bias or “fake news,” Canadians’ trust in journalists to deliver reliable information rose three points to 49 per cent in 2024 (higher than many other categories of people including bankers, religious leaders, corporate executives and others), and news on traditional media once again remains the most trusted source of information in general at 56 per cent.

While charities grow, business is flat

The charity/NFP sector is steadily building trust, up from 47 per cent in 2022 to 53 per cent in 2024. As examples, the Canadian Red Cross is trusted by 66 per cent and the Nature Conservancy of Canada by 55 per cent. In contrast, trust in large corporations is at 30 per cent and SMBs at 43 per cent. On many urgent issues, the charity sector’s focus on results appears to be building trust.

Less interest in hearing from business

The public appetite for business leaders speaking out on issues has declined in the past year. When it comes to important issues like climate change, racism, and social equity, 49 per cent of Canadians believe that business leaders should speak out regularly, compared to 57 per cent in 2022. On topics, 76 per cent of Canadians say that business should speak out on economic matters while only 32 per cent want to hear from them on international conflicts. 

Trust in the election system

“Our results show Canada needs to do better in building trust in our elections. Mediocre is not good enough when it comes to democracy,” said MacLellan. Overall trust in the electoral system is stable at 46 per cent. Between 2019 and 2024, trust that the electoral system is fair has increased slightly to 50 per cent and representative of votes of citizens to 47 per cent.

Significant regional and age differences are concerning. In the Prairies, only 36 per cent agree the system is fair, compared to 54 per cent in Ontario and 52 per cent in Quebec. By age, 47 per cent of Gen Z agree the system is fair, compared to 57 per cent of boomers.

Trust can be grown

Trust is not binary. While we focus on those who trust, there are large numbers who fall just below our trust threshold (5-7 out of 7) and rate various categories 4 out of 7. These people are a large cross-section of Canada – they trust some and distrust others. These are the swing-vote of trust. This group can be moved to trusting with positive actions and better communication, but if leaders become complacent, it can go in the other direction. “Most people become trusting when they see reliability, empathy, shared values, and integrity. The question becomes, are leaders willing to try?” added MacLellan.

Other survey findings

About the 2024 Proof Strategies CanTrust Index 

The Proof Strategies CanTrust Index, now in its ninth year, is a leading source of research and understanding of trust in Canada. We study and analyze topics, institutions, events and population segments unique to Canada and surveyed 1,501 Canadians between January 3-13 by online panel. The sample is representative of Canadian population statistics by region, age and gender. Our study uses a 7-point scale with 7 being the highest trust and 1 being the lowest. Respondents choosing 7, 6 or 5 result in the percentages of trust used in this report.  

About Proof Strategies 

For almost a decade, Proof Strategies has been contributing to knowledge about trust in Canada. A centerpiece of the firm’s leadership is the annual Proof Strategies CanTrust Index™, a research study conducted each January, and shared publicly on its website, in media stories, in contributions to books and articles and in presentations to companies, educational institutions, charities and not-for-profits. This “Made in Canada” study, conducted by independent research partners, samples 1,500 Canadians to track trends in trust in institutions, leaders, and information sources. In 2021, Proof Strategies partnered with leading academics and the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) to create the Trust Matters Toolkit, available to board members in Canada and around the world. In 2024, Proof Strategies partnered with the Social Studies Educators Network of Canada (SSENC) to publish three teaching plans called Learning About Trust, designed to teach elementary, middle and high school students the importance of defining and building trust. Proof Strategies is committed to advancing the understanding of trust year-round – societies, democracies and economies cannot function without it.

For further information, please contact:

Maddy Porter 

Associate Account Director, Proof Strategies