Coronavirus: 14 million Canadians say they are hand washing more; 4 million stocking up on supplies.

Abacus Data Bulletins are short analyses of public opinion data we collect. For more information or media interviews, contact Bruce Anderson or David Coletto.

Data gathered over the last several days describes some of the ways Canadians have been responding to the Coronavirus.

Yesterday we documented a series of avoidance behaviours, today some additional behavioural changes.

Here are some highlights:

While two of out three say they have or will wash hands more thoroughly, a quarter of Canadians are resisting this advice. Half say they are or will cough into their elbow, while a third doubt they will adopt this behaviour.

A quarter is using websites to find out more about the virus, 10% have already called a doctor for advice, and almost as many 8% have visited a clinic of the ER for advice. Twice that many say they will probably visit a clinic or ER for guidance. 15% of Canadians say they have been stocking up on supplies and another 24% say they probably will do so.

9% say they have been working from home rather than a regular workplace. Among those for whom the place of work is relevant, more than a third say they are or probably will find themselves working from home.

6% say they have been wearing a mask and 3 times as many say they probably will.

Analyzing results based on location or demographics reveals a few things:

Even though older people are more at risk due to the nature of this virus, in most cases they are no more likely than younger people to be taking steps to limit their risk. We do see a higher incidence of behaviour change among women compared to men, and there is markedly higher behaviour change among residents of Canada’s three largest cities (Vancouver, Montreal,  and Toronto).


According to Bruce Anderson: ”While many people have already begun taking routine steps to help protect themselves or others from the spread of Covid-19, there remain many people who do not see a need to change. More constant and persuasive advocacy is probably needed. These numbers also show that doctors, clinics and ER’s can expect continued rising pressures which will stress systems significantly. Telework is already ramping up and will likely expand. Stores that have experienced a run on goods should probably anticipate more of the same, as long the arc of stories about the virus continues in the same direction.”


Our survey was conducted online with 1,500 Canadians aged 18 and over from March 3 to 6, 2020. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.1%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.


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