TORONTO — The governments of countries worldwide have been forced to make some very difficult decisions over the last several months. Every country has come up with their own plan and implemented restrictions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers from McGill University and the University of Toronto recently evaluated the response of Canadian citizens to the coronavirus threat. They find that across the board Canadian citizens agree that extreme measures need to be taken to combat the pandemic, a level of solidarity not seen in the country for decades.
“We know that public opinion tends to become polarized on highly salient issues, except when political leaders are in consensus. In the United States, there appears to be political and public polarization on the severity of the pandemic,” says co-author Aengus Bridgman, a PhD Candidate in Political Science at McGill University, in a university release. “Other evidence suggests that polarization is undermining compliance with social distancing.”
How Canadian Officials, Citizens Feel About Social Distancing
Researchers analyzed data from the social media accounts of federal members of parliament, public opinion surveys and Google search trends for their study. They found that members of parliament from all parties have been taking the pandemic quite seriously on social media. Meanwhile, survey of 2,500 Canadians shows that liberals and conservatives are exercising social distancing. Also, the majority of citizens are quite impressed with the response of their government to the pandemic.
The analyses have identified a couple of minor differences between responses of liberal and conservative citizens. While only 15% of liberal partisans blame prime minister Justin Trudeau for the pandemic outbreak in Canada, over double the amount of conservatives feel he is to blame. Also, nearly half of the conservatives surveyed think the Chinese government is to blame for the outbreak.
Extreme Times Call For Extreme Measures
Regardless of who people blame for the outbreak, health experts agree that everyone needs to come together to prevent the virus from spreading. The authors say this is is true for all countries: every citizen needs to practice social distancing and wear a face mask when necessary to try and keep others healthy.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, individual citizens need to voluntarily sacrifice economic and social activity to protect others. Avoiding polarization is essential for an effective societal response to the pandemic,” concludes co-author Taylor Owen, an Associate Professor at the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University.
The study is published in the Canadian Journal of Political Science.