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Person washing their hands

Clifton van der Linden and Vox Pop Labs gauge public reactions to COVID-19

Data scientists at Vox Pop Labs, in partnership with public health researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and public strategy firm MASS LBP, have launched the COVID-19 Monitor — a rolling public opinion study that will survey approximately 2,500 Canadians every 72 hours throughout the duration of the public health emergency.

Apr 02, 2020

Clifton van der Linden, founder and CEO of Vox Pop Labs, is an assistant professor with McMaster's department of political science. His research explores the relationships between digital technologies and patterns of democratic participation. Cliff is also actively engaged in the application of new, technologically-enabled methods—such as the use of Big Data and machine learning—to the study of political behaviour and public opinion. 

"This study is an effort to make a contribution to our collective well-being during these precarious times," said van der Linden. "It's important that governments in Canada and Canadians themselves have access to detailed and timely research that can help everyone respond effectively to the COVID-19 outbreak."

"As the number of COVID-19 cases inevitably rises in the coming weeks, this tool will help us understand how governments should be tailoring their services, and whether messaging around measures like social distancing and handwashing need to be refined or amplified for certain groups of Canadians," said Dr. Dan Werb, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health who is involved in the study.

Among the initial findings:

  • 9 out of every 10 Canadians are washing their hands more frequently with soap and water, staying away from crowded places, and avoiding handshakes

  • Roughly 8 out of every 10 Canadians are practicing social distancing by avoiding non-essential in-person contact, keeping their distance from others wherever possible, and avoiding travel outside Canada

  • Almost 1 in 5 Canadians remain unsure when or how to seek testing for COVID-19

  • Three-quarters of Canadians express heightened concern about the economy and nearly half of all Canadians are more concerned about being able to pay their bills than they were a month ago

  • Two-thirds of Canadians have experienced some degree of mental distress since the start of the pandemic and report elevated levels of anxiety, fear, and stress

  • More than half of Canadians are broadly confident in the federal government's initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Quebecers are two to three times more confident in their province's response to COVID-19 than residents of other provinces

  • Public health officials continue to command a significant trust premium over politicians and members of the media

The study was conducted between 20 and 23 March 2020 and involved 2,439 participants from Vox Pop Labs' online respondent panel.

The full results of the first wave of the study are now available at http://voxpoplabs.com/covid-19.

About Vox Pop Labs

Vox Pop Labs is a social enterprise that uses data science to improve political representation and democratic participation. It is the maker of Vote Compass and numerous other digital initiatives. Vox Pop Labs also has one of the largest online respondent panels in Canada and in several other countries worldwide and regularly conducts public opinion research in areas related to public policy and public affairs.

SOURCE Vox Pop Labs Inc.