A new Ipsos poll suggests a strong majority of Canadians would support a wide range of government measures to further limit the spread of COVID-19, from stricter physical distancing laws to limiting personal movement.
The poll, released Thursday on behalf of Global News, also found 84 per cent of Canadians surveyed would support whatever deficit that Ottawa would say is necessary to get Canada through the coronavirus pandemic.
While the poll found strong support for extending or strengthening measures already in place, like enforcing physical distancing, it also suggests a majority of the country would accept even harsher measures — even down to invading personal privacy.
The highest majorities were found when Canadians were asked about more empathetic initiatives. Ninety per cent of those surveyed said they would either strongly or somewhat support the military building field hospitals for COVID-19 patients, while 87 per cent were supportive of the government using empty hotels to house the homeless.
The same majority of Canadians surveyed — 85 per cent — supported both stricter physical distancing measures enforced by legislation, and large fines for anyone caught breaking those orders. Those moves would strengthen existing laws and penalties meant to keep people apart.
Yet the poll also suggests that 76 per cent of Canadians would approve of government-imposed restrictions on who can leave their home and when, a measure that has gained traction in other parts of the world.
A relatively slim majority of those surveyed, 65 per cent, said they would even support the federal government using cellphone data to track Canadians who are supposed to be self-isolating. If enacted, the move would echo measures taken by governments from South Korea to Poland.
Ipsos CEO Darrell Bricker said the fact that majorities were found across the board suggests that Canadians are prepared for the government to do “whatever it wants” to fight the pandemic.
“We’ve had some commentary from experts saying the government has overstepped some of its boundaries of what they consider appropriate for this circumstance,” he said. “But they have pretty strong public support for doing whatever is necessary in order to deal with this situation.
“Whatever the limit is, we certainly didn’t find it in this survey.”
While most of the above measures found strong support across gender, age groups, provinces and household incomes, both phone tracking and running deficits saw their support dip among some groups. Respondents in more conservative provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan were less supportive of allowing a deficit, for example, while younger people were more wary of the government invading their privacy.
Many provinces and municipalities have threatened to both fine people and put them behind bars if they continue to gather in large groups or not self-isolate. The Canadian government has enacted legislation that requires all returning travellers to self-isolate for 14 days, with fines up to $750,000 and jail sentences up to six months for those who don’t comply.
Another recent Ipsos poll suggested a full quarter of Canadians admit they’re not following social distancing guidelines as much as they should, even though 95 per cent of those surveyed believe social distancing will slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Bricker said the two polls together highlight a mentality among some Canadians that other people are the problem, not themselves.
“If you look at the initiatives that we’re asking people to approve of, one is limiting my own personal movement, but almost everything else is really things that they feel should be done to other people,” he said.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu has said the federal government is prepared to use “every measure in our toolbox” to battle the pandemic, including enforcing self-isolation and even physical distancing.
But Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam has expressed resistance to limiting personal freedoms like privacy and mobility, arguing a “proper balance” is needed.
With officials saying Canada must brace for physical distancing measures to remain in place until at least the beginning of summer, Bricker says the poll data suggests people are transitioning from fear of the virus to frustration over when life will return to normal.
“What they really want to have happen is for government to take whatever action is necessary both to guarantee their income … and get people behaving in the right way so we can move on and put this issue behind us.”
Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between April 3 and April 7, with a sample of 1,006 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.