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Conservative voters, men 35 and up more likely to say COVID-19 threat 'overblown,' poll finds
Crowds gather at English Bay in Vancouver on Saturday, March 21, 2020 despite the provincial health officer's warning to stay two metres apart from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (CTV)
VANCOUVER -- Certain demographics are more likely to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously than others, according to a new survey from the Angus Reid Institute.
While the poll found 88 per cent of Canadians believe the threat posed by the novel coronavirus is "serious," the other 12 per cent, or about one in eight people, said they consider the threat to be "overblown."
Among the COVID-19 skeptics, pollsters found two groups – men who are at least 35 years old, and people who voted Conservative in the last election – were overrepresented compared to their percentage of the population.
Nearly two-thirds of the people who called the crisis overblown were Conservative voters in 2019, a demographic that only represents about one-third of Canadians.
Likewise, men who are 35 and older made up 45 per cent of the skeptics, despite representing just 35 per cent of Canadians.
By comparison, just 15 per cent of the respondents who called the crisis overblown were Liberal voters, followed by eight per cent who voted NDP and five per cent who voted Green.
Pollsters found job stability did not appear to have any serious bearing on people's attitudes toward the virus. Angus Reid said people who called the situation overblown were "almost equally likely to have felt the economic impact of the pandemic" as those who believe it's serious.
"About half in each group has lost work at the household level already. Just under one-in-five each anticipate losing hours or being laid off in the future," the institute said in a news release.
Despite finding the concerns around COVID-19 to be exaggerated, the majority of skeptics said they were following at least some of the precautions recommended by health officials to limit the spread of the virus.
Of four precautions presented by pollsters, skeptics were most likely to say they are washing their hands more often (72 per cent), followed by keeping extra distance from people (66 per cent), refusing to shake hands or hug (66 per cent) and staying away from public places (60 per cent).
Only 37 per cent of skeptics said they were doing all four, compared to 72 per cent of people who consider the threat serious.
When it comes to predicting when life will go "back to normal" in Canada, skeptics were more likely to believe the virus impacts would only last "a few weeks" or "a month or two." The vast majority of responders who consider the situation serious predicted it would either take "three to six months" or "six months to a year."
The Angus Reid Institute conducted the poll in two sections, first questioning a representative randomized sample of 1,664 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum online panel from March 20 to 23. Pollsters then conducted a follow-up survey to learn more about the Canadians who see the situation as "overblown," oversampling the group by adding another 207 respondents.
Surveys of this size carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, according to the Angus Reid Institute. For the full poll results and methodology, click here.