September 20, 2018 — In Canada, class-based terms and categories such as “The Middle Class” are difficult to define. Indeed, much debate has been focussed upon this elusive definition – as well as whether utilizing the term is even appropriate or useful within the Canadian and North American context. Nevertheless, during a time when political leaders across the country and the continent are making frequent references to helping “The Middle Class”, it is important to identify Canadians who feel Middle Class – as they are the audience for these appeals.

Our study finds that, at a “gut” level, three-quarters (76%) of Canadians either moderately or strongly identify as Middle Class. Yet, when forced to choose their “class” from among a 4-category hierarchy, less than half (43%) of Canadians report this class identification. Thus, general references and appeals to the Middle Class will find an audience among most Canadians. However, if the discussion evolves into a detailed consideration of class identity, a significant proportion of Canadians will feel left out of those appeals.

  • Although just under half (48%) of Canadians are optimistic about the future of the Middle Class, confidence in personal (57%) and descendant (68%) social mobility remains quite high. However, Canadians identifying as Poor (39%) are much less likely to feel confident about their personal social mobility than those identifying as Working Class (61%) or Middle Class (61%).

In addition to gauging how the term “Middle Class” resonates with Canadians, our study also explores the public’s perspectives on their current and long-term personal fortunes and comparative generational standing. Overall, we found that Canadians feel less positive about their personal financial situation. Compared to 2017, fewer Canadians feel financially secure (10%; -8) or say they are getting ahead with some savings (35%; -5), whereas a majority say they are just getting by without any savings (45%; +10) or falling behind on their monthly expenses (10%; +3).