Toronto, ON, January 1, 2021 – The lockdowns, distancing and masks that have characterized much of 2020 have kept Canadians apart like never before. A new Ipsos study conducted exclusively for Global News examines how this unprecedented period of isolation has impacted social cohesion in Canada – and finds that while most are missing the quality time with those they love, many feel like the experience has done little to unite us.
A common struggle, but few commonalities
Enforced time apart has made Canadians yearn for spending time together: more than half (54%) agree that physical distancing has left them feeling lonely or isolated – unchanged since April – and three in four (75%) now value time spent with their friends and family more than they did before the pandemic.
Beyond that, however, there is less of a sense that we are all in this together. More than half of Canadians (52%) disagree (13% strongly/39% somewhat) that COVID-19 has brought Canadians closer together. This feeling is strongest in Alberta – where the second wave has hit particularly hard at a time when the province is already in economic turmoil – with more than two in three (68%) Albertans disagreeing that Canadians are any closer than they were pre-pandemic.
For some, it’s a question of difference. One in three Canadians (32%) disagree that they have a lot in common with Canadians living in other provinces, rising to half (49%) in Quebec. A majority (68%) do agree (10% strongly/58% somewhat) they have “lots in common” with Canadians living in other provinces – a feeling shared by roughly three in four in Alberta (76%), Ontario (75%), BC (74%), and the Prairies (72%), two in three Atlantic Canadians (58%), and half of Quebecers (51%).
The sense of isolation many of us have felt in 2020 includes a sense of distance from those who live closest to us: four in ten Canadians feel like they have nothing in common with their neighbours, with 42% agreeing (10% strongly/32% somewhat).
Stronger provincial identity fuels sense of difference, isolation
In most parts of the country, a majority consider themselves Canadian first (63%), leaving 37% who identify with their province first. Provincial identity has strengthened significantly (+7 points) since the last time Ipsos asked question eight years ago: in 2012, seven in ten (70%) saw themselves as Canadians first, compared to three in ten (30%) who most closely identified with their province.
Identity matters because it influences opinions significantly: those who say they identify with their province first are less likely to feel they have a lot in common with Canadians in others province: only 54% do, compared to 76% of those who see themselves as Canadians first. Interestingly, those who identify more closely with their province than with Canada are also significantly more likely to agree that physical distancing has left them feeling lonely or isolated (58% vs. 51% of those who identify as Canadian first).
Quebec (53%) and Atlantic Canada (50%) are currently the only two regions where half or more identify with their province first and foremost, while clear majorities in Ontario (74%), Alberta (73%), BC (64%), and the Prairies (58%) say they are Canadian first.
No quick return to normal
Canadians have grown more cynical than they were in the early days of the pandemic about the possibility of a quick return to normal life. Once the spread of the virus is contained, only 57% are confident that things like work, school, and social life will get back to the way they were before the pandemic, marking an 8-point downturn in confidence since in April.
Despite the uncertain future and the strains put on Canadians’ sense of social cohesion, there is still some sense of common struggle in the face of the pandemic, which could help explain why a majority in every province disagree that their province should get access to COVID-19 vaccines first. Disagreement is highest in Alberta (79%) and lowest in Quebec (59%). In Canada overall, 68% disagree that their province should be first in line for the vaccine, while one in three (32%) agree that they should get priority.
About the Study
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between December 11-14, 2020, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
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