Abacus Data Bulletin: COVID anxiety is widespread among Canadian parents

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

Millions of Canadian parents are anxious about whether their children are safe as school returns this fall. In our latest nationwide survey, we probed Covid-19 related anxieties and here’s what we found:

• 47% of those who have children in primary, secondary or post-secondary school say they are fairy or very anxious about whether things are being handled safely on campuses, in classrooms and school buildings. This includes 15% who say they are very anxious.

• Anxiety levels are above 50% in BC, and Ontario as well as across Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and are lower than average in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

• Fathers and mothers show very similar levels of anxiety.

• A clear majority (56%) of parents with kids in primary schools or secondary schools are anxious.

• 51% of Conservatives are anxious, as are 46% of Liberals, and 55% of New Democrat supporters.

Our deeper analysis shows that worries about COVID-19 have a significant relationship with whether people think the country is heading in the right direction or is on the wrong track. Among those who think the country is going in the right direction, just 34% are worried about school safety right now. Among those who think the country is on the wrong track, anxiety is 22-points higher, at 56%.


“It’s probably not an overstatement to suggest that a parent’s concern about their children’s health and safety is going to be the most important consideration for them on a day to day basis. The pandemic has, for many parents, brought both the economic anxiety that everyone feels and an extra amount of concern as their children return to schools and campuses. Those stakeholders who are arguing against lockdowns and in favour of a rapid normalization of everyday life, may find themselves meeting a strong headwind of parental concern depending on the depth and nature of this fall’s pandemic spikes.”



The survey was conducted with 546 Canadian parents of children in primary, secondary, or post-secondary schools from September 18 to 21, 2020. 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 +/- 4.3%, 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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