It appears optimism over the timeline to get the coronavirus pandemic under control is dwindling among Canadians, with 47 per cent of those surveyed expecting a summer reprieve, down from 58 per cent in mid-December 2020.
However, more than two-thirds of Canadians surveyed are still confident that the pandemic will be under control by the end of the year and nearly eight in 10 are confident vaccines will help limit the spread of the virus.
Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, believes the drop in optimism is related to what’s been described as a slow rollout of vaccinations as well as what impacts people can feel in their day-to-day lives.
“What (Canadians) know is that the number of cases are going up, so that’s got to be bad regardless of what the sources are, and they know that they’re less likely to be able to move around than they were even a couple of months ago due to what’s happening with COVID,” he said.
The Ipsos polling, conducted exclusively for Global News in early January, suggests that those experiencing more of the impacts of the pandemic are more likely to be pessimistic.
“It’s probably people who are in that middle group, the working population, that are seeing most of the direct effects in their lives,” Bricker says.
“So they’re less optimistic than maybe some of the younger folks are and definitely than the older folks are.”
According to Ipsos data, 38 per cent of millennials surveyed are optimistic about where we’ll be by the summer and 58 per cent are optimistic that the virus will be under control by the end of the year, compared to 59 per cent and 62 per cent for gen-Z Canadians and 49 per cent and 75 per cent among boomers surveyed.
A similar pattern emerged when looking at data based on location.
Those polled in Saskatchewan and Manitoba expressed the most optimism about the summer, at 56 per cent, while those polled in Alberta were the least optimistic, at 38 per cent. Optimism levels elsewhere were 52 per cent for B.C., 48 per cent for Ontario, 42 per cent for Quebec and 47 per cent in Atlantic Canada.
As for optimism over having the pandemic under control by the end of the year, 72 per cent of respondents in Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well as in Ontario expressed optimism, compared to 71 per cent in B.C., 68 per cent in Atlantic Canada, 63 per cent in Alberta and just 59 per cent in Quebec.
“Different provinces are experiencing this in different ways,” says Bricker.
“British Columbia has had a bit better experience than, say, for example, places like Quebec, where people are particularly negative about getting back on track.”
Vaccination as source of hope and vulnerability
“The single biggest driver right now about whether or not people are hopeful is their opinions about vaccines,” Bricker stressed.
“But it also shows the vulnerability that we have right now because so many people are looking forward to the effect of vaccines and getting access to vaccines and Canada’s situation is not enviable on that front right now.”
Canada’s vaccine rollout has been met with criticism, with some experts describing it in early January as “slow” and even “embarrassing.”
“Canada is definitely having a slower start,” Kerry Bowman, a professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto, said at the time.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced frustration over the pace of inoculations in early January, just as the Ipsos polling was underway.
But premiers, including Ontario’s Doug Ford, said the real concern in the days and weeks ahead will be over Ottawa’s ability to get vaccines to the provinces quickly enough.
A majority of Canadians polled, 79 per cent, are optimistic that COVID-19 vaccines will be effective at limiting the spread of the virus, with men more likely than women to be optimistic, at 84 per cent and 74 per cent, respectively.
Increased confidence in vaccines was also tied to education, with 82 per cent of Canadians with post-secondary education optimistic that vaccines will be able to limit the spread of the virus, compared to 64 per cent of respondents with less than a high school education.
“There’s a group of the population that’s paying a lot closer attention to this and learning a lot more about what’s going on than other parts of the population. So there needs to probably be more of an understanding of that. You just can’t communicate about doses and suppliers and throw a whole bunch of numbers at people, assuming that they’re going to take them on in exactly the same way.”
Optimism about the effectiveness of vaccines also decreased with age, with 84 per cent of boomers surveyed optimistic, 79 per cent of gen-X Canadians, 74 per cent of millennials, and 69 per cent of gen-Z Canadians.
Some advocates in Canada have called for a targeted approach to address COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, calling on the government to take steps to find solutions that come from a place of transparency and understanding.
Dr. Amy Tan, a palliative care and family physician from Victoria, B.C., said in early January that data suggests people from underrepresented communities make up a good portion of those who are concerned and that building trust will be a key factor in charting a course for success when it comes to COVID-19.
Bricker says it’s critical that policymakers, politicians, academics and other leaders and communicators understand that vaccines are the key to getting back on track.
“We will not be able to talk about restarting the economy, we will not be able to talk about getting back out into society the way that we used to experience until we’ve tackled the problem of getting people to roll up their (sleeves) and making sure that they’re vaccinated in the shortest period of time possible,” he says.
“If that doesn’t happen, this will just drag on.”
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 January 5 and 6, 2021, with a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18+ from Ipsos’ online panel. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled.
— with files from Global News’ Katie Dangerfield and Katherine Ward as well as The Canadian Press.