March 25, 2020

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

 

 

On Monday, we completed a comprehensive survey on how Canadians are feeling and reacting to the COVID-19 outbreak. Over the next few days, we will be releasing findings from that study. In this bulletin, we explore the anxiety caused by the epidemic.

Here are the key findings:

75% are following news or information about the outbreak either closely, and 69% are worried. Fully 40% say they are worried a lot or extremely worried (about 12 million Canadian adults). Men, especially younger men, are less concerned than women.

At this point, partisanship is not a major driver of overall concern about COVID-19 in Canada. Almost equal numbers of Liberal, Conservative, and New Democratic partisans reporting being extremely worried or worried a lot about COVID-19 although Conservatives are slightly more likely to report being not that concerned about the epidemic.

Most Canadians (55%) now believe they or someone they know will contract the coronavirus, a 27-point increase from a survey we conducted two weeks ago.

Most (65%) feel that when it comes to COVID-19, the worst is still to come.

Most (55%) feel that it will take 2 to 3 months or more before they will be able to live their lives more or less as they did before although many are unsure at this point.

There are widespread impacts on mental health. 75% report feeling anxious, 37% feel lonely, and 32% say they are having a hard time falling asleep because of COVID-19. One in three (36%) report not wanting to watch the news or read about the virus because it makes them more anxious. Women, younger Canadians, and those in single-person households are more likely to report mental health strains of this sort.

In addition to financial concerns, half of Canadians are worried that there will not be enough medical equipment or enough hospital beds to handle the crisis.

To date, 47% of Canadians reporting watching an online video about coronavirus and 37% have visited a public health website about the virus. Millions of Canadians have visited a pharmacy to speak with a pharmacist (9%), called or live chatted with a health professional (7%) or gone to a clinic to see a health professional about COVID-19 (5%). 4% report going to a hospital already to see a health professional. Millions more are considering doing so in the future.

Most Canadians (77%) feel they are at least mostly prepared if they are required to self-isolate for 14 days. In the event of a full, mandatory lock-down, like in Italy, most continue to say they are mostly prepared (71%), but 29% say they are only a little prepared (21%) or not at all prepared (8%). For context, that 8% represents about 2.4 million Canadians.

THE UPSHOT

According to Bruce Anderson: ”No one in Canada has experience with a situation like this – where financial collapses surround us, and the prospect of a health system collapse looms large. Isolation means people are consuming large amounts of information about the crisis, which is helping them prepare, but also driving high levels of anxiety and making it clear that economic health, physical health but also mental health will be challenges for the country in the days ahead.

According to David Coletto: ”It’s clear that the COVID-19 outbreak is unprecedented on so many levels. The level of attention Canadians are paying to the issue, the deep seated and broad concern people have, and the uncertainty around how long it will disrupt their lives.

Our data also points to a growing mental health impacts. Millions report not being able to sleep well, feeling lonely and anxious, while some have even considered turning off the news because of how it makes them feel. The impact is broad and deep.

Most troubling is the varied reaction among different groups of Canadians. Men, especially young men, are less concerned. They are less likely to be distancing themselves from others, and less likely to think the epidemic will last for longer..

As a rapidly evolving issue, perceptions and views will undoubtedly change, but the big picture of our state of mind is profoundly concerning. Canadians are feeling anxious, worried, and uncertain about how this will turn out. Most still feel the worst is ahead of us, and many are unprepared to self-isolate or be locked down.”

METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 2,309 Canadians aged 18 and over from March 20 to 24, 2020. A random sample of panellists 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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