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Friends, Neighbours, Townspeople and Parties: Explaining Canadian Attitudes toward Muslims

  • Timothy B. Gravelle (a1)


The 2015 Canadian federal election campaign put into focus relations between Muslim communities in Canada and wider Canadian society, featuring debates around banning the niqab, and a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline. At the same time, challenges in relations between Muslims and majority-group Canadians were not a new development in 2015: they had in the past faced periodic strains due to terrorism-related events, and attacks targeting Muslims in Canada. The Canadian case is in fact reflective of a challenge in intergroup relations facing several Western democracies. In light of this, what accounts for majority-group Canadians’ attitudes toward Muslims in Canada? Drawing on data from the 2011 and 2015 Canadian Election Studies and theories linking outgroup perceptions to intergroup contact (friends), local demographic context at both the micro-level (neighbours) and meso-level (townspeople), and political factors (parties), this article seeks to explain why majority-group Canadians hold alternately positive or negative views of Muslims.

La campagne électorale fédérale canadienne de 2015 a attiré l'attention aux relations entre les communautés musulmanes du Canada et la société canadienne au sens large en raison des débats sur l'interdiction du niqab et la ligne d'aide sur les « pratiques culturelles barbares ». En même temps, des défis dans les relations entre les musulmans Canadiens et les Canadiens des groupes majoritaires n’étaient pas nouveaux en 2015. Des événements liés au terrorisme et des attaques visant des musulmans au Canada a autrefois soumis les relations à la pression. En fait, le cas canadien reflète un défi des relations intergroupes auxquelles sont confrontées plusieurs démocraties occidentales. Comment donc s'explique les attitudes des Canadiens des groupes majoritaires envers les musulmans au Canada? Utilisant les données de l’Étude électorale canadienne des années 2011 et 2015 et les théories concernant aux contacts intergroupes, les contextes démographiques locales au niveau micro et méso-urbain, et les facteurs politiques, cet article cherche à expliquer pourquoi les Canadiens tiennent les opinions alternativement positives ou négatives à l’égard des musulmans.


Corresponding author

School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia, email:


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Previous versions of this article were presented at the 2017 annual conferences of the American Association for Public Opinion Research in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Canadian Political Science Association in Toronto, Ontario. Thanks are due to the participants of those two conferences, Carol Gravelle of Mount Saint Vincent University and the three anonymous CJPS reviewers for their helpful comments.



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Friends, Neighbours, Townspeople and Parties: Explaining Canadian Attitudes toward Muslims

  • Timothy B. Gravelle (a1)


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