Fire and Ice Revisited: American and Canadian Social Values in the Age of Obama and Harper | Wilson Center
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Fire and Ice Revisited: American and Canadian Social Values in the Age of Obama and Harper

Webcast available

Webcast Recap

Noted Canadian pollster and author Michael Adams will discuss his recent public opinion research tracking the evolution of Canadian and American social values. Adams will discuss some of the big changes he has observed since he published Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values in 2004.

Fire and Ice won the Donner Prize in 2003 for best book on Canadian public policy, and was selected by the Literary Review of Canada as one of the hundred most important books ever published in Canada.


Michael Adams, President, The Environics Institute for Survey Research


Michael Adams began by discussing his research on the differing social values between Canada and the United States and the importance of acknowledging these differences (found in his presentation below, and in the first edition of Fire and Ice, 2003). He discussed everything from secularity versus religiosity, winner-take-all versus income redistribution, and capricious philanthropy versus compulsory philanthropy through taxation.

Comparing the trajectory of U.S. social opinion to that of Canada, Adams found that the United States has not followed a unilateral path and has surprisingly started to follow Canada on a path towards idealism and authenticity. Commenting on this change, Adams noted that “the theory has always been that Canadians are going to follow the Americans… and here is a case where you actually have a hypothesis that America is becoming a bit Canadian.” Moreover, Adams found that one of the driving factors in the United States’ recent shift in beliefs has largely been because of millennials, who are by nature “much more egalitarian, much more multicultural, and much more open,” and who are driving general American social opinion to a more liberal phase.

Canada Institute Director David Biette asked Adams to elaborate on the demographic differences between Canada and the United States and how those differences shape social values. In response, Adams asserted that the growing Hispanic population in the United States, which will soon comprise one third of the population, and prominent activist groups such as single women, have begun to change the way Americans view their government. As a result, Adams concludes that with changing demographics and a better educated, more multicultural populace, Americans will become considerably more liberal—and therefore more Canadian—in their outlook.