North America Considers the Penny

It is coming up to ten years since Canada removed its 1 cent coin, or penny, from circulation.

A recent survey by Research Co found that 71% of the public do not miss the Canadian penny. Those aged 35-64 years old miss it most, with only 65% supporting its abolition, compared with older people, who were 72% in favour.

British Colombia was most wedded to the penny, again with 65% supporting its abolition compared with the 71% average.

Focus has now moved to the 5 cent (nickel) coin, with support for its removal increasing by 4 points since the last poll in 2019, now at 40%. One explanation for this is to do with the purchasing power of the coin, particularly as inflation rates rise.

However, nearly half (49%) of respondents still have reservations and oppose abolition of the coin.

As with the penny, support for removing the nickel is split along age and geography demographics. Those aged 18-34 are most supportive of its removal at 43%, with that figure dropping to 37% amongst those aged 55 and over. More than half of respondents in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (58%) support keeping the coin, falling to 46% amongst those residing in Alberta.

Unlike the penny, the nickel’s face value is still higher than the cost of production. No plans have been announced.

Support for US coins falls

According to the US Mint’s 2021 Annual Report, the unit cost for both cents and nickels continues to increase beyond their face values. The cost to produce and distribute the 1 cent coin rose from 1.76¢ to 2.1¢, whilst the cost for the 5 cent coin increased from 7.42¢ to 8.52¢. The cost of producing the two coins has remained above their face value since 2006.

Recent Data for Progress poll research notified respondents of the cost to produce the penny and then asked for their agreement with a statement that the government should stop producing the coins given the cost. Nearly three- fifths (58%) of respondents supported the statement.

General support for stopping the production of new pennies came in at 60% of respondents, with 33% opposing – leaving total net support for abolition at 27%. In comparison, a 2020 survey carried out by CivicScience found that only 33% of respondents supported the elimination of the penny from circulation.

In terms of 5 cent (nickel) coins, the number of respondents supporting abolition given the cost of production was far less (33%), with support for continuing production despite the cost at a much higher 59%.

General support for stopping the production of new nickels was also far lower, with total support at 39% and total opposition at 53% – leaving total net support for abolition at -14%.