06/01/2012 06:11 EDT | Updated 08/01/2012 05:12 EDT

The Nanos Number: Next generation's standard of living

Nik Nanos digs beneath the numbers with CBC Power & Politics host Evan Solomon to get to the political, economic and social forces that shape our lives.

This week: What's behind the support for student protests in Quebec?

One way to get at the forces driving that support is to look at leading indicators, numbers that offer a glimpse at what's happening on an issue now, as well as an understanding of its trajectory.

In this case, Nanos Research asked whether respondents thought the next generation of Canadians will have a standard of living that is higher, the same or lower than Canadians have today.

In Canada overall, the largest group, 37 per cent, said they expect a lower standard of living than their parents, compared to 26 per cent who thought it would be higher and another 26 per cent who expected it to be the same.

But the negative number really pops out in Quebec, where 41 per cent felt they will be worse off and only 18 per cent expect to have a higher standard of living than their parents. Twenty-eight per cent thought it would remain the same.

That split points to a degree of angst that may cause some in Quebec to identify with the students' protests in the streets, a kind of a "me-too" effect.

It also suggests a "grinding effect" in parts of Canada, where years of economic malaise, layoffs and cuts in services are spilling over into a feeling by many Canadians that they won't be as well off as their parents.

The numbers on the Prairies, where the energy sector is driving a strong economy, show perceptions about future standard of living there are generally more positive.

The numbers also point to a strategy behind NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's recent statements critical of the government's handling of the oilsands and its impact on the manufacturing sectory — a blame game, where bad news in parts of the country as well as concerns about the environment can be laid at the feet of Stephen Harper's Conservative government.

This week's Nanos Number reveals a sour and dour mood in Quebec that should be of concern for incumbents at both the provincial and federal level.

Recognized as one of Canada's top research experts, Nik Nanos provides numbers-driven counsel to senior executives and major organizations. He leads the analyst team at Nanos, is a Fellow of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association and a Research Associate Professor with SUNY (Buffalo).