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Survey: Ambivalence now prevails over pandemic game plans in Canada

More than three in four Canadians still consider COVID-19 to be a real threat.
Mask mandate sign - cc
We continue to see high proportions of Canadians who would be satisfied if they were compelled to wear a mask or face covering when entering an indoor premise.

As Canadians enter the last month of the summer, our focus on the COVID-19 pandemic is not as intense as it used to be.

No restrictions and mandates are currently in place, and a significant proportion of the population has had at least three shots of the vaccine. Still, the latest survey by Research Co. and Glacier Media outlines a country that is divided on some issues and united on others.

Some of the numbers we track did not fluctuate much since May. We continue to see that more than three in four Canadians (77 per cent, down one point) consider COVID-19 as a real threat. More than half (54 per cent, up two points) believe that, as long as people are vaccinated, COVID-19 is a minor nuisance. About three in five Canadians expect to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at least once more in the next six months (63 per cent, up three points) and claim that it is only a matter of time before everyone gets infected with COVID-19 (60 per cent, up one point).

The way we feel about politicians has changed, and so has our own experience with the virus over the past few weeks. This month, 55 per cent of Canadians are satisfied with the way the federal government is dealing with the pandemic, down six points since May. There are also sizable drops in our perceptions of the performance of provincial governments (53 per cent, down 10 points) and municipal governments (59 per cent, down six points).

Chart source: Mario Canseco, Research Co.

As has been the case since March 2020, not all provincial governments fare equally on this file. In May, we measured auspicious increases in Alberta and Ontario, the latter coming just before an election. The two provinces have reverted to their usual positions, with satisfaction with pandemic management dropping to 39 per cent in Alberta (down 14 points) and to 48 per cent in Ontario (down 17 points).

In Quebec, where a provincial electoral campaign will begin in the next few weeks, the government also lost ground on COVID-19, going from 67 per cent in May to 58 per cent in August. The needle did not move at all in British Columbia (62 per cent).

One of the reasons for the shift in government satisfaction is the fact that COVID-19 is still affecting our lives. In May, only 23 per cent of Canadians said that they, or someone else in their household, became infected with COVID-19 after restrictions and mandates were lifted in their community. This month, the proportion has risen to 37 per cent. The rise in exposure to COVID-19 is particularly striking in three provinces: British Columbia (43 per cent, up 20 points), Quebec (40 per cent, up 13 points) and Ontario (38 per cent, up 16 points).

It is also remarkable to see that Canadians are divided on the way their provincial administrations dealt with this phase of the pandemic. While 46 per cent believe that restrictions and mandates were lifted too early in their community (up three points), 44 per cent claim this happened at the right time (down five points).

Among Canadians who have endured COVID-19 in their household recently, the notion of restrictions and mandates being lifted too early reaches 53 per cent. Among those who have not been affected by the virus in the past few weeks, the proportion stands at 41 per cent.

In any case, the country is not particularly resistant to the return of previous guidelines. We continue to see high proportions of Canadians who would be satisfied if they were compelled to wear a mask or face covering when entering an indoor premise (66 per cent, down two points), saw reduced capacity at cinemas, theatres, concert halls and sports arenas (63 per cent, down one point) or were required to show proof of vaccination to enter venues, restaurants or public events (60 per cent, down one point).

There is also some movement on what has become a rollercoaster of a question. More than two-thirds of Canadians (68 per cent) think the worst of the pandemic is behind us, down eight points since May. This leaves 20 per cent (up seven points) who believe the situation will worsen.

At this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians are embracing ambivalence. Most believe everyone will eventually get sick, express confidence in the effectiveness of vaccines and foresee getting a new shot in the next six months. Those who have recently been sick, or took care of a person who was infected, are more likely to question the decision to reopen everything, but not overwhelmingly. •

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from August 1 to August 3, 2022, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.