Fear of Omicron triggers anxiety across Canada

Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson

We completed a national survey of 2,025 Canadian adults from November 25 to 30, 2021, and asked some questions about COVID and public concerns that we have been tracking since the start of the pandemic.  Here’s what we found:


Four in ten adults say they are becoming more worried about the pandemic over the past few days, almost doubling (20-point increase) the response to the same question a month ago.

  • Rising worry is much more apparent among middle-aged and older Canadians.
  • Rising worry is happening among the vaccinated and the vaccination hesitant – while those who refuse to be vaccinated seem unmoved by the news about Omicron
  • Change in COVID worry is highest in Quebec (51%), Atlantic Canada (46%), BC (45%), and Ontario (43%) and lowest in Alberta (36%).


Equal numbers of Canadians (28%) think the worst is still to come as think the worst is behind us (26%), as half (47%) are uncertain. This is more pessimism about the future of the pandemic since May 2021.


According to Bruce Anderson: “The response to Omicron news which broke beginning last Thursday has been swift, underscoring just how attentive people remain to the pandemic which has held the world in its grip for almost two years.  While worry is spiking, most people are waiting for more information to decide how serious this threat is.  If it does turn out that this new variant will require harsh measures, it’s a fair bet that this will intensify divisions between those willing to be vaccinated and those who refuse to take that step, regardless of the prospect of another wave.”

According to David Coletto: “Our polling throughout the pandemic has shown there is a strong correlation between perceptions about the pandemic and virus and behaviours. Those who become more worried tend to be less defensive in their behaviour – less likely to venture out to public spaces, go to restaurants, or to travel. Concerns about the Omicron variant have spiked public anxiety again and continue the high degree of uncertainty about whether the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

And while we find some regional and demographic variation, there’s little difference across the political spectrum. The rise of this new variant has made Liberals, Conservatives, and New Democrats more anxious and worried about what comes next.

The only potential upside is that those who are unvaccinated but open to it could be convinced to get vaccinated due to the risk posed by the variant.“


The survey was conducted with 2,025 Canadian adults from November 25 to 30, 2021. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically 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 +/- 2.2%, 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.

This survey was paid for by Abacus Data Inc.

Abacus Data follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements that can be found here:  https://canadianresearchinsightscouncil.ca/standards/


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