Canada’s brand of resilience: optimism and progressivism

May 11, 2020

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When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking forward to its lasting mark on the world, Canadians are – on the whole – cautiously optimistic.

We conducted an online poll among a national sample of 2,000 Canadians on April 14-15, 2020. According to our results, there are more Canadians who believe that some good is coming out of this pandemic than those who don’t. 57% of Canadians said that they at least somewhat agree with the statement that ‘there is some good that is coming out of this pandemic that may make the world a better place’, compared to 17% who at least somewhat disagreed with this statement. Younger Canadians tended to be slightly more optimistic than older Canadians (see figure below).

Results of online poll to the statement 'There is some good that is coming out of this pandemic that may make the world a better place', broken down by age group.

Results from an online poll among a national sample of 2,000 Canadians on April 14-15, 2020. The margin of error for a probabilistic sample of the same size is ±2.2%, 19 times out of 20. Our data has been weighted by gender, age, region and education so as to be representative of the Canadian population.

The national lean towards a rosier post-COVID-19 future appears to stem from five main beliefs, including lasting environmental benefits (24%), improvements in healthcare, hygiene and emergency preparedness (18%), greater interpersonal closeness and unity (15%), and a greater appreciation for all that we have and for our lives (12%).  A fifth and highly prevalent category of response about potential COVID-19 impacts had to do with the feeling that people will put a greater emphasis on social values (22%); specifically, that we will be kinder to each other and more willing to help the needy and vulnerable in our society (perhaps due to the many tragedies at senior’s centers, care for the elderly was often mentioned).

EnvironmentSocial ValuesHealthcare/HygieneUnityAppreciation
“The earth has a chance to breathe”“People will be kinder and more empathetic”“It will make us more aware and careful about taking these threats seriously.”“People are getting to know their family”“People will appreciate life more, know what really matters”

COVID-19 has increased support for social policies

The hopes of the few seem to be echoed in the voices of the many; We also asked respondents how they felt about various social issues, and whether their feelings towards these social issues have recently changed.

According to our poll, approximately 53% of Canadians now support Universal Basic Income, with 16% of all Canadians reporting that they had just recently started to support this initiative. Over a quarter of Canadians said they’ve recently changed their minds and are now in favour of wage increases for essential workers; as such, the vast majority of the country (64%) now believes that essential health care providers should receive a wage increase, and the majority of Canadians (56%)  believe that it’s time for non-healthcare essential workers to receive wage increases as well. This newfound appreciation for essential workers may have translated into greater general support for the economically vulnerable among us; 50% said that they support a minimum wage increase (18% say their support is recent), 53% said that they believe funds should be allocated to lifting people out of poverty (19% are recent supporters), and 42% were in of support raising the basic amount for unemployment insurance (18% are recent supporters).  Finally, a strong minority of Canadians said that they now believe that Canada should be divesting from fossil fuels and investing in clean energy (42%; 14% were recent supporters).

No regional differences were found, with two exceptions: Quebecers were more likely than other Canadians to admit that they have recently changed their minds on these issues, and respondents living on the Prairies were less in favour of divesting from fossil fuels (24% were in support of this initiative) than respondents from other regions. Otherwise, Canadians appeared to be mostly in agreement that the way forward in a post-pandemic Canada is more progressive policy, and less economic disparity.

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