What to do when it’s over? After COVID-19, Canadians long to live stress-free, hug their friends and travel

by David Korzinski | December 21, 2020 8:00 pm

Return-to-normal not expected by most until at least next fall, if ever

December 22, 2020 – For many Canadians, the answer to a common question in December carries an unusual answer. What are you doing New Years Eve? Waiting for next year.

For many, this holiday season – with parties cancelled and traditions put off – is an obstacle to overcome. Now, new data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds people from coast-to-coast hoping fervently for a new era when neighbours and communities are safely vaccinated, and (almost) everyone regains a life that looks more like it used to.

Three things that Canadians are looking forward to most: being able to go about their day-to-day routine without worrying about the virus (44% look forward to this), being able to resume the hugs, pecks on the cheek and handshakes that come with physical contact (43%), and international travel (42%).

More Key Findings:


About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.



Part One: Post pandemic, what do Canadians yearn for most?

Part Two: Majority anticipate return to “normal” next fall or later


Part One: Post pandemic, what do Canadians yearn for most?

As lockdowns put a damper on the usual holiday festivities, and the rollout of vaccines[1] begins to shine a light at the end of the tunnel, Canadians – while largely committed[2] to the restrictive requests of public health officials – can be forgiven for casting their gaze to the future. What will you do when the pandemic is over?

Related: A COVID Christmas – How will Canadians spend the holidays this year?[3]

Three items stand out. Just over two-in-five (44%) say they want most to resume a normal life where the simplest day-to-day activities do not take on extra stress. Nearly everything in public life has been imbued with a health risk as COVID-19 spread this year, and many people are anticipating lifting this weight off their weary shoulders. The same number (43%) say they can’t wait to be able to hug their friends again or greet an acquaintance with a handshake. Many Canadians are also eager to spend some time far away: taking a trip internationally is chosen by two-in-five respondents (42%) as well. The airline industry has been crippled by COVID-19. Air Canada, for example, reported a 96 per cent[4] reduction in second quarter passenger travel this year and an 88 per cent[5] reduction in the third quarter. Notably, one-in-five Canadians (20%) are looking forward to taking a trip closer to home, within Canada.

British Columbians want a hug, Quebecers want to party

Looking at these data regionally yields some interesting stories across the country:

Generational differences in post-pandemic priorities

When looking at different demographic groups, the activities which make the top five are similar, but their relative importance varies.

Those who are 55 or older are most keen on being stress-free about doing regular things. It is the most anticipated activity among men of that age, and a close second for women. This may owe to the elevated personal risk of COVID-19 in that age group and the fact that many people may have spent months planning shopping trips around specific hours[6], or stayed home entirely, in order to remain safe.

Wealthier Canadians want to get back in the skies

Differences are also evident based on household income levels. While income does not appear to influence a person’s likelihood to travel domestically post-pandemic, it bears considerable impact on international travel. Among those whose household income is $150 thousand or more, two-thirds (64%) say they look forward to international travel. That number drops across each subsequent lower income level, to just 20 per cent among those with incomes less than $25 thousand.

Part Two: Majority anticipate return to “normal” next fall or later

As Canada’s first COVID-19 vaccinations are administered, a return to normalcy becomes less a distant hope and more a forthcoming reality. Experts and public health officials, however, caution that the resumption of pre-pandemic life will not be instantaneous, with some estimating it could take a year or longer[7].

Canadians largely appear to be attuned to this messaging, as more than three-in-five (63%) do not expect normality to resume any earlier than fall 2021. Notably, one-in-five (20%) are even less optimistic and say life in Canada “won’t ever go back to the way it was”:

Residents in Saskatchewan, however, appear most optimistic, with nearly one-quarter (23%) anticipating a return to normalcy to occur in the spring or summer.

One-in-five Canadians ages 18 to 34 say the country will be “back to normal” in the spring or summer of next year, compared to one-in-seven of those 35 years old or above. Similarly, those belonging to older age groups are more likely to say that life will be forever changed by the pandemic.

Some of the starkest attitudinal differences are between those who intend to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and those that don’t. Among those who want the vaccine, there is much more optimism about a return to normalcy. Fewer than one-in-five (15%) say that things will never go back to the way they were, while half (48%) of those who will not get vaccinated say the same. Those who are not sure whether they will get a jab sit somewhere in the middle.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.[8]

For detailed results by willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccine, click here.[9]

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here.[10]

To read the questionnaire, click here.[11]


Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693 shachi.kurl@angusreid.org[12] @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821 dave.korzinski@angusreid.org[13]

  1. rollout of vaccines: https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/v-day-first-covid-19-vaccines-administered-in-canada-1.5230184
  2. committed: https://angusreid.org/covid19-christmas/
  3. Related: A COVID Christmas – How will Canadians spend the holidays this year?: https://angusreid.org/covid19-christmas/
  4. 96 per cent: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/air-canada-reports-second-quarter-2020-results-809761194.html
  5. 88 per cent: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/air-canada-reports-third-quarter-2020-results-823700314.html
  6. specific hours: https://www.canadiangrocer.com/top-stories/covid-19-grocers-introduce-seniors-only-shopping-hours-93615
  7. a year or longer: https://globalnews.ca/news/7509252/coronavirus-vaccine-restrictions-canada-covid-19/
  8. click here.: https://angusreid.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/2020.12.21_PostPandemicOutlook_PRTables.pdf
  9. click here.: https://angusreid.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/2020.12.21_PostPandemicOutlook_PRTables_VaccineWillingness.pdf
  10. click here.: https://angusreid.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/2020.12.21_COVID-outlook1.pdf
  11. click here.: https://angusreid.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/2020.12.18_COVID_BacktoNormal_Qnaire-1.pdf
  12. shachi.kurl@angusreid.org: mailto:shachi.kurl@angusreid.org
  13. dave.korzinski@angusreid.org: mailto:dave.korzinski@angusreid.org
  14. 126257592: https://www.dreamstime.com/young-couple-hugging-guard-rail-pipe-windy-sunny-day-facing-stormy-ocean-young-couple-hugging-guard-rail-pipe-windy-image126257592
  15. motortion: https://www.dreamstime.com/motortion_info
  16. Dreamstime.com: https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos

Source URL: https://angusreid.org/covid-back-to-normal/