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Canadians support public health measures: survey

Canadians overwhelmingly support public health measures designed to stem the spread of COVID-19, according to a study conducted by university researchers.

The study, All in this together?, polled nearly 6,000 Canadians in all provinces and territories and shows, according to a researcher involved, that Canadians are united.

“The vast, vast majority of Canadians are supportive of measures to stop COVID,” said Loleen Berdahl, the executive director of the Johnson Shoyama School of Public Policy, a joint effort between the University of Regina, the University of Saskatchewan and one of the groups involved in conducting the study.

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Berdahl said the data show that 84 per cent of Canadians trust scientists. And while only around half have confidence in governments (both federal and provincial), almost 80 per cent of Canadians trust the federal government’s medical advice.

Berdahl said that proves anti-maskers are a very small minority – if a loud one.

The vast majority of Canadians feel the opposite. Seventy-nine per cent said they get annoyed when people around them don’t wear masks and almost the same percentage said they’re not bothered when businesses require patrons to wear a mask.

Young Canadians, ages 18 to 24, were the most likely to say they were bothered when a store required them to don a mask, with 33 per cent answering in the affirmative.

Berdahl pointed out the survey concluded at the beginning of March, before the variants of concern started spreading and sending younger Canadians to hospital.

She said she expects young Canadians would answer differently now if asked again.

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“When we start to see 30-year-olds in ICU (intensive care unit) beds, it becomes a lot more real,” she said.

When it comes to vaccination, three-quarters of Canadians asked said they will definitely or probably get the shot, but there is a clear division when it comes to race. Fifty-seven per cent of white Canadians said they would but just under 40 per cent of racialized Canadians said the same.

Berdahl said that hesitation likely stems from a history of mistrust with authorities and governments.

She also said that low percentage shows governments need to expand their messaging so it resonates with more people.

“One message isn’t going to reach everyone,” she said.

There is also a political divide when it comes to the intent to get vaccinated.

People who said they support the Bloc Québécois, Liberals and NDP, in decreasing order, said they definitely intend to get the vaccine, but only half of Green Party supporters and less than half of Conservative Party supporters said they would.

Berdahl said that hesitation likely stems from a lack of trust in government or science.

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The political divide extended to views on the speed with which governments should reopen the economy.

Thirty-one per cent of Conservative supporters said governments should reopen the country faster than they are now. The next-highest support came from Liberal supporters, 14 per cent of whom gave the same answer.

Overall, 73 per cent of Canadians told researchers governments “should keep people as safe as possible from the spread of the COVID-19 virus, even if that means re-opening economy more slowly.”

Berdahl again pointed out that the survey concluded before the third wave of the pandemic got underway and said she thinks the number of people in favour of opening slowly would likely increase.

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