The Confederation of Tomorrow 2021 Survey of Canadians was released Monday. (Photo: Matt Napo, Unsplash)

Masks, vaccines, lockdown and trust: National survey reveals what Canadians think of COVID-19 pandemic response

Researchers from the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS) at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and the University of Regina (U of R) have collaborated with leading public policy organizations across the country on a national public opinion survey that gives voice to Canadians about major issues shaping the future of the federation and their political communities.

The first of many reports produced from the findings of the Confederation of Tomorrow 2021 Survey of Canadians was released Monday and covered questions about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, such as Canadians’ views on masks-wearing policies, vaccines, lockdowns, and their trust in the scientific and medical community.

“Since March 2020, Canadians from coast to coast have willingly done their part to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by abiding by public health guidelines to wear masks in public, to social distance from one another, and most recently, to get vaccinated when possible,” said Loleen Berdahl, JSGS executive director. “That said, with the recent outbreak of COVID-19 variant cases in the province, which is more transmissible, governments and public health officials must understand the current sentiment among Canadians so to better inform future policies and programs that will hopefully mitigate further impacts on communities.”

This year’s Confederation of Tomorrow survey was conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, the Canada West Foundation, the Centre D’Analyse Politique – Constitution et Fédéralisme, the Institute for Research on Public Policy, the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government, and the JSGS. The 2021 study consisted of a survey of 5,814 adults, conducted online in the provinces between January 25 and February 17, and online and by telephone in the territories between January 25 and March 1.

“Canada is a diverse and complex country, and the best way to understand it is to work in partnership which experts across regions, including those at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy,” said Dr. Andrew Parkin, executive director at the Environics Institute.

Parkin noted that future reports from the survey will look at how the pandemic has affected how Canadians view the roles of their federal and provincial governments, as well as other key topics such as climate change policy, Canada-U.S. relations, and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Report highlights include:

  • 77% of respondents say they are not bothered when stores and businesses require customers to wear a mask, while 79% are bothered when people around them in public do not wear masks. 33% of 18 to 24-year-olds surveyed are bothered by mask-wearing requirements, compared to 13% of those ages 55+.
  • 75% of respondents say that they would definitely or probably get vaccinated to prevent COVID-19 if a vaccine were available to them. 17% would probably or definitely not choose to be vaccinated. The proportion of respondents saying they will definitely not get the vaccine is highest in the Prairies (11%) and P.E.I. (16%).
  • 39% of those who identify as racialized say they definitely will get the vaccine, compared to 57% of those who identify as white. There is also considerable variation among racialized groups with those who identify as South Asians (50%), Chinese (48%), Black (25%), and Indigenous (38%).
  • 82% of those with a university degree say they would definitely or probably get the vaccine, compared to 68% of those with only a high school education.
  • 67% of respondents with household incomes of $30,000 or less say they would definitely or probably get the vaccine.
  • 73% of Canadians prefer that governments keep people as safe as possible from the spread of the COVID-19 virus, even if that means reopening the economy more slowly, compared to 19% who prefer a faster reopening of the economy, even if more people end up getting sick. 31% of Conservative Party supporters are more supportive of a faster reopening of the economy than supporters of any other main parties.
  • 88% support allowing the government to stop people from moving across the international border between Canada and the United States. 77% support allowing the government to stop people from moving between provinces and territories within Canada (including 72% support in Saskatchewan). 60% support allowing the government to stop people from moving between different cities or towns within each province or territory. Among supporters of the main federal political parties, Conservatives stand out as the least supportive of restrictions on mobility.
  • 84% of Canadians have confidence in scientists, while only 52% have confidence in governments. However, 80% of Canadians trust the medical and health advice given by the Government of Canada. This suggests that confidence in medical experts generally outweighs doubts about governments.

JSGS faculty members currently conducting COVID-19 related research will use data from the first report issued from the Confederation of Tomorrow 2021 survey.

For more information on current COVID-19 research projects led by JSGS faculty, or to read the new report, All in this Together? Canadians’ Views on Masks, Vaccines and Lockdowns during the COVID-19 Pandemic, issued from the Confederation of Tomorrow 2021 survey, visit

Read the report in full: