Canadians are still strongly adhering to public health guidelines even though there has been a significant loss of faith in government COVID guidelines and its overall effectiveness in dealing with the pandemic according to a Master University-led study over the first year of the pandemic.
Researchers surveyed 1,435 community adults on five occasions – April, July and October 2020 and January and April of 2021 – making it one of the few longitudinal studies on attitudes during the pandemic. The respondents were, on average, in their mid-thirties with middle-class income and education.
Senior author James MacKillop said that the study revealed both good news and bad news over time. “The good news is that people showed high or rapidly increasing compliance with public health guidelines early in the pandemic and those have been sustained,” said MacKillop, professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences and investigator at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.
“The bad news is that we saw significant reductions in perceptions of guideline importance and adherence to guidelines over time,” MacKillop continued. “Furthermore, we saw dramatic negative shifts in public opinion about government effectiveness, with ratings falling through the floor.”
More than 80 per cent of respondents rated the government’s COVID-19 response as effective in early 2020, but this was fully reversed by April 2021, when more than 80 per cent rated it as ineffective. In fact, in the last wave of the survey, the most common response was the lowest possible rating, that the government response was “very ineffective.”
“These data reveal both resolute commitment to safety measures in the large majority of our sample, but also clear evidence of ‘pandemic fatigue’ and disappointment with its overall management,” commented MacKillop.