At Hill+Knowlton Strategies, we are committed to understanding how the extraordinary challenges we face are affecting Canadians. As part of our continuing COVID-19 Intel Series, we surveyed 993 Canadians over the weekend of March 27 to 29. This is the second wave of survey results, the first wave having taken place two weeks earlier. This second wave allows us to see how, if at all, things are changing over that short timeframe. We also explored new issues, such as changing work environments.

What hasn’t changed in the last two weeks: The sources from which Canadians obtain their information about COVID-19, and their trust in these sources, have remained stable over the last two weeks. Canadians continue to look to governments and traditional media for information about COVID-19. We note that trust in those sources is exceptionally high, especially with respect to the trust that Quebec residents are placing in their provincial government.

What has changed in the last two weeks: Self-isolating behaviours have shifted dramatically. The biggest change lies in the dramatic increase in the proportion of Canadians who say they have self-isolated; close to a six-fold increase in the last two weeks, from 11% to 62%.

State of the pandemic: 3 out of 4 believe it’s getting worse

The vast majority of Canadians (74%) believe the pandemic to still spreading and getting worse, this represents a small increase from two weeks earlier in the wave one survey. There is a significant difference in B.C., where 33% say that the spread is stabilizing and “staying about the same,” as compared to only 19% across Canada feeling the same way. This likely reflects recent traditional news coverage of the possibility that BC was seeing some flattening of the COVID-19 curve.[1]

Canadians also believe that this pandemic is going to be with us for months (69%), or even until the end of 2020 (17%). Today, fewer than 1 in 10 Canadians think the pandemic will be wrapped up in a matter of weeks (7%).

Great deal of uncertainty: 1 in 5 think they will get COVID-19

While the proportion of Canadians who believe they will get COVID-19 has risen by about one-third in the past two weeks (14% to 20%), the plurality in the adult population continues to believe that they will not contract the virus (40%).  However, there is a great deal of uncertainly, where a third of adult Canadians are at this point unsure if they will contract it or not (34%). In contrast, 60% are now worried that friends and family with by stricken by COVID-19, which is up significantly from only 47% feeling the same way two weeks ago.

Widespread self-isolating: 9 in 10 have changed behaviour

Two weeks ago, public health messages appeared to be just starting to get through and the assumption was that if someone were to experience symptoms of COVID-19 compliance with public health measures would likely be high. Now, in this recent survey, results show that Canadians have, in fact, dramatically changed the way they live. The most illuminating result is that 62% of Canadians indicate that they have taken self-isolation action in response to COVID-19, compared to only 11% two weeks ago. Conversely, the proportion of people who says that they have “done nothing” to prepare themselves has fallen precipitously from 38% to 8%. Of note is the comparatively higher proportion of Quebec residents (14%) who report doing “nothing to prepare myself.”

Employment: 1 in 5 are working remotely, almost as many temporarily laid off

A total of 21% of the total adult population of Canada is now working remotely, while 15% have been temporarily laid-off. Zeroing-in on the current workforce (removing retired people, those who are unemployed and not looking for work, and students)we find that more than a third of the current workforce is working remotely today (35%) and 1 in 5 members of the Canadian workforce has been temporarily laid-off (20%).  If we include those who were already unemployed and looking for work, we have a staggering 25% of the workforce experiencing unemployment.

While those findings are stark, our research also reveals that the relationship between employers and schools, with their remaining workforces and students, is still strong and even strengthening as this crisis unfolds. First, 75% feel that their workplace or school has “responded well” to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This is up significantly from 48% feeling the same way just two weeks ago. Interestingly, among those who are working remotely, fully 81% say that their workplace has responded well (compared to only 68% of those still working on-site).

We also find that almost everyone (90%) who is still employed or going to school has received some communication from their employer about specifically about the COVID-19 pandemic. This is up 32 percentage points in two weeks.

The impact of communications received by employees and students continues to have a net positive impact: 60% say they feel more informed by the communications they received, while 41% feel more connected. In contrast, relatively few describe themselves as having become either more anxious (16%) or confused (10%) because of what they read, watched or heard from their employer or school.

Trusted sources: Canadians turn to governments and traditional media for COVID-19 information 

Two weeks ago, in the first wave of our survey, we learned that most Canadians were relying on traditional media and government for information on COVID-19, and more significantly, that these sources were garnering relatively high levels of public trust. Trust in the information received from these sources continue to be elevated in our most recent survey.  Specifically, we find that information about COVID-19 from traditional media is trusted by 60% of Canadians, and information from the federal government is trusted by 68%, while provincial governments receive the trust of 75% of the public. In Quebec, trust in the provincial government is an astounding 91%.

About the Study

Source: Hill+Knowlton Strategies (H+K)

H+K researchers collected the data in partnership with Leger Opinion (LEO), an online panel.  Results based on n=993 Canadians surveyed over the period of March 27th to the 29th, 2020. Sampling was done within age, gender, and region quotas.  Length of survey was less than 10 minutes.  Data was weighted on age, gender, and region according to 2016 census figures.  An associated margin of error for a randomly selected sample of n=992 would be ±3%, 19 times out of 20

[1] “The curve could be flattening, but moment of truth is still coming for B.C.’s COVID-19 fight”