Those most skeptical of the outbreak least likely to engage in hygiene and distancing actions
March 30, 2020 – Since the novel coronavirus took root in Canadian communities, opinion about the threat it poses has evolved: from initial curiosity and skepticism to widespread acceptance and anxiety of the power and speed with which it spreads.
But even as the number of cases in Canada exceeds 6,000 and now touches almost every part of the nation, one in every eight adults is of the view that the threat of a coronavirus outbreak is “overblown”.
Now, a new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute shows this cohort – more cavalier in their approach to the virus that has ground Canadian society to a halt and caused an economic crisis – differs significantly from those who say they take the risk seriously, especially when it comes to distancing and hygiene.
Those who say the attention and worry around COVID-19 is undue are less likely to be staying away from others, from public spaces, or to be regularly washing their hands.
More Key Findings:
- Those who say the threat of COVID-19 is overblown are less concerned about personally contracting the virus or it happening to someone in their household than those who say the threat is serious
- Political partisanship correlates with opinion on the seriousness of the pandemic: those unconvinced are far more likely to have voted for the CPC in the 2019 federal election
- Those who see threat of the COVID-19 outbreak as overblown are also likely to say things will get “back to normal” more quickly than those who say the threat is serious
Which Canadians think it’s overblown?
To better understand who comprises this group of Canadians unconvinced of the seriousness of the pandemic, the Angus Reid Institute oversampled these Canadians, beyond their natural size in the general population. This sample size, 385, allows for more detail and analysis than the 195 in the original survey.
While this group’s education and income demographics are similar to those of the general population (see detailed tables), there are considerable differences in age and gender. A key characteristic of this group is its likelihood to be male and over the age of 34. Both groups of men, those 35 to 54 years of age and 55 years and over, are overrepresented compared to their standard distribution in the general population:
Regionally, British Columbia and Alberta are disproportionately represented in the group who say the threat of outbreak is overblown:
But the starkest difference is this group’s past voting history: it is vastly more likely to have chosen the Conservative Party in the 2019 federal election. Two-thirds (64%) of those who say the crisis is overblown supported the CPC.