As the novel coronavirus pandemic drags on, a new Ipsos poll suggests most Canadians are growing pessimistic that life will return to some semblance of normal later this year.
The poll, conducted exclusively for Global News, found that despite the arrival of multiple vaccines to combat the pandemic — and promises that every adult will have access to one by September — only 28 per cent of those surveyed expect things to start to feel normal by this winter.
The largest share of Canadians polled, 38 per cent, said they don’t think a return to normality is possible until 2022. Another 29 per cent combined said that return may not come until even later: 17 per cent said 2023, five per cent said 2024, and seven per cent said not until 2025 or later.
The poll suggests another seven per cent of Canadians are even more pessimistic and think life may never return to normal.
“I think what Canadians are telling us in the survey is that it’s been a year now, so anything that they thought was easy before, they’ve learned is not easy,” said Ipsos Public Affairs CEO Darrell Bricker.
“They have a desire to get back to things, but they’re, I would say, hedging their bets a little bit because they know that this is difficult.”
While the answers were relatively consistent across all the provinces where people were surveyed, the highest amount of pessimism was found in Alberta and Atlantic Canada, where 15 per cent of respondents couldn’t say if “normal” life will ever return.
Bricker said Albertans were already feeling pessimistic about the economy and quality of life before COVID-19, while Atlantic Canadians didn’t weather the pandemic to the same degree as the rest of Canada has.
“There’s maybe a certain amount of skepticism (in Atlantic Canada) about things getting better because they never got down as far as we saw in other parts of the country,” he said.
Overall, 60 per cent of those surveyed expressed optimism that their family will be in a better position than it was before the pandemic hit. Yet Ipsos notes that number is down 13 points from when the same question was asked in December 2020.
Bricker said it’s possible that number could rise again as the country’s vaccine rollout accelerates, but that Canadians’ cautious optimism will likely remain.
“They know that this is a tough fight and that we’re still in it,” he said. He added that when Ipsos did polling at the start of the pandemic, they found many Canadians thought it would only take a couple of months before life got back on track.
“It’s a little bit like Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football. You run up and try to kick the football and Lucy pulls it away and you fall down. I mean, how many times do you have to go through that before you realize that maybe this isn’t going to be as easy as it looks?”
The poll found Canadians have similar levels of optimism for regaining employment when the economy recovers (58 per cent), and that life will ultimately return to normal at some point (57 per cent).
Among those surveyed, those aged 18 to 34 were the most optimistic about getting their jobs back post-pandemic at 67 per cent, compared to 52 per cent of those aged 35-54 and 58 per cent of those aged 55 and up.
As for what Canadians are looking forward to the most once life starts returning to normal, the poll found the highest number — 36 per cent — are itching to ditch their masks. But many of the other top answers all revolved around socializing.
Over one-third of Canadians, or 35 per cent, said they want to get together with friends, while 31 per cent are looking forward to inviting their families back into their homes.
International travel and dining in a restaurant without restrictions both garnered 26 per cent support, while 23 per cent said they want to be able to physically touch others again.
“What we’re seeing in the survey data is that human beings are really a social species,” Bricker said. “The inability to touch other people or have a connection with other people … that’s the thing that we really, really miss.”
Bricker said the need for connections is the biggest lesson Canadians have learned after a year under public health restrictions and the spectre of COVID-19.
“There’s a lot that can’t be taken for granted,” he said. “I think one of the lessons here is how much we need each other and how much we need to be able to interact with each our family or friends or society in general.
“(Canadians) want to get back to life as they previously experienced it. And they are ultimately hopeful that sometime in the future we’ll be able to do that.”
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between March 2-3, 2021, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.