Ten key datapoints to watch in 2021

Jan. 25, 2021 – Being a uniquely strange and chaotic year, a great deal happened in 2020 that is worth looking back on. The 10 most striking things that we found in our studies last year are interesting in their own right, but also mark developments to keep an eye on as 2021 unfolds.

1. Will Canadian Views of China continue to Plummet?

Canadian perceptions of China hit a record low last year, in no small part due to deteriorating relations between the two countries. At the top of that list: the Chinese government’s ongoing detention of two Canadians, in a tit-for-tat reaction to Canada’s 2019 arrest and subsequent release on bail of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Against this backdrop, questions surrounding China’s initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, including its reporting of COVID-related cases and deaths, garnered additional scrutiny from Canadians. We’ll be revisiting this issue soon.

Read the full report here: Canadian opinions of China reach new low

Additional Source: Pew Research Center

Note: For Pew Research, favourable combines “very favourable” and “somewhat favourable” responses, while ARI uses “very favourable” and “mostly favourable”

2. Perceptions of how police treat of non-white people

In the weeks following the eruption of international protests that began in the United States over police misconduct and systemic racism came a two-part study from the Angus Reid Institute to distill Canadian views on these issues. While most saw problems in the ways police in this country interact with Black, Indigenous, and other non-white people, the perceived severity of the problem differed across political party affiliation. As the federal government implements its new body camera program for RCMP, and calls to reduce municipal police budgets continue, discussions over the future of policing in this country appear far from over.

Part One: Policing in Canada: Major study reveals four mindsets driving current opinions and future policy preferences

Part Two: Defend or Defund? One-in-four support cutting local police budgets; most back social welfare over hiring more cops 

3. Satisfaction with government fades as pandemic drags on

As the first wave of the pandemic in Canada dissipated last spring, many Canadians were praising their provincial government’s handling of the situation. By contrast, polling conducted in November saw that while some regions were as satisfied as ever with pandemic management in their province (we’re looking at you, Atlantic Canada) other regions have strongly soured; in Manitoba, by a whopping 41 percentage points. Stay tuned for updated public opinion data on this topic as provincial governments continue to grapple with high case numbers and distribute their initial supplies of COVID-19 vaccines.

Read the full report here: Provincial Spotlight: As pandemic wears on, governments losing support on economic, COVID-19 management

Related: Premier approval tracker

4. Hope for a new era with the U.S. under Biden

In 2016, the forthcoming Trump Administration was a prospect many Canadians feared would damage relations between Canada and its neighbour to the south. The sentiment four years later has drastically improved following Joe Biden’s victory, with three-in-five saying Biden’s presidency will have a positive impact on the Canada-U.S. relationship. Will their hopes be fulfilled? Or dashed? We’ll be watching.

Read the full report here: Better with Biden? President-elect restores hope among Canadians for an improved relationship with U.S.

5. The impact of COVID-19 on social lives

Amid the second wave of COVID-19 infections and associated restrictions in this country, community life largely stood still. Polling conducted in September found that just one-in-three (33%) Canadians identified as having a good social life, down from more than half in 2019 (55%). The speed and effectiveness of vaccine distribution will inform when, or even whether, Canadians will be able to socialize, volunteer, go to weddings, parties, concerts and the big game again in 2021.

Read the full report here: Isolation, Loneliness, and COVID-19: Pandemic leads to sharp increase in mental health challenges, social woes

6. From vaccine hesitancy to vaccine mania?

Over the last 12 months ARI has reported on the changes in attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccination, and has witnessed a journey wherein Canadians have transitioned from ambivalence about receiving a vaccine to impatience. As inoculation went from an abstract concept, as it was through the summer and fall, to a “seeing-is-believing” reality in December and January, many have dropped their anxieties over side effects and picked up a sense of urgency. Will Pfizer’s announcement of a significant delay in vaccine delivery also tamp down injection enthusiasm? Wait and see.

Read the full report here: Itching for injection: Number of Canadians who say they want to be vaccinated ASAP against COVID-19 surges

7. Universal basic income supported by a majority

The pandemic’s first wave of lockdowns saw millions of Canadians suddenly rendered jobless and was also a stark reminder of how painful and anxiety-inducing financial instability can be. The economic shocks drove increased interest in the idea of universal basic income. A mid-June survey found the concept has majority support, but that support varies greatly with political leanings. While roughly four-in-five of those who backed the NDP or Liberals in the 2019 election favour such a program, only one-quarter of those who voted for the CPC feel the same. Whether this idea will be explored by federal or provincial governments on a large scale in the future remains to be seen.

Read the full report here: As COVID-19 rewrites playbook on social safety net, majorities support idea of basic income of up to 30K

8. Long term care regulation

In May, shortly after it had been estimated that roughly 82 per cent of Canada’s COVID-19 fatalities (at that time) had occurred in long-term care homes, ARI conducted a study which found that two-thirds of Canadians support the nationalization of these facilities. Reports of terrible conditions in many of these places, and even the need to bring in military assistance to some in Ontario and Quebec, caused outrage. Those two provinces, along with British Columbia, had the highest levels of support for nationalization. Discussions about long-term care home funding and quality are sure to be a focus of governments after COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered and some normalcy has been restored. With the second wave yielding even more tragic and disproportionate deaths of our most fragile citizens living in long term care, the issue stays on our radar in 2021.

Read the full report here: COVID-19 and the extended care crisis: two-thirds support government takeovers of long-term care facilities

9. Political ideology influencing COVID-19 perspectives

As with so many other things in the modern era, levels of worry about COVID-19 exhibit a partisan split. While a clear majority of Canadians surveyed in late September expressed some concern about themselves or those close to them becoming sick, those who had voted for the CPC in the last federal election were much less likely to be worried than NDP and Liberal voters. Those who supported Bloc Quebecois fell somewhere in between. These same political fissures are evident in vaccine attitudes, which will define much of 2021.

Read the full report here: Second Wave Angst: COVID-19 concern levels rebound to April highs as Canadians brace for worse to come

10. Will 2021 feature a federal election?

There were three provincial elections in 2020 which featured increased mail-in voting and expanded election periods to accommodate the challenges of voting during the pandemic. Looking ahead to 2021, the question is if Canadians will head to the polls or cast ballots through the mail for a federal government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not stated publicly that he will pursue this, but reportedly suggested an election would happen this year if vaccinations move forward quickly. Trudeau’s Liberal party maintained a lead for most of the year in national vote intention, though faces stiff competition from Erin O’Toole’s Conservative Party.

Read the full report here: Most say Trudeau government handling COVID-19 crisis well, but Liberals, CPC remain in virtual tie on vote intent

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