Canadians trust doctors, scientists and government more since pandemic began

Canadians trust doctors, scientists and government more since pandemic began

OTTAWA — An annual survey looking at who Canadians trust most suggests the COVID-19 pandemic has given Canadians almost absolute trust in doctors, while trust in corporate leaders and the media has plummeted to all-time lows.

The Proof Strategies CanTrust Index is usually completed in January but when Canada went into a countrywide lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the public relations firm decided to ask some of the same questions again in early May.

In January, the survey found 76 per cent of Canadians trusted doctors, and 70 per cent trusted scientists. When repeated May 1 and May 2, the online survey of 1,000 people saw trust in doctors shoot up to 87 per cent and trust in scientists to 82 per cent.

The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error as they are not random and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.

Proof CEO Bruce MacLellan said Canadians have long put a lot of faith in doctors and scientists but he was surprised to see how much that has increased since COVID-19 began to hit Canada.

“Trust for doctors and scientists was leading all other places in our trust survey but now it’s really gone into the trust stratosphere, if you will, in terms of how highly trusted these individuals have become,” MacLellan said. “It’s truly remarkable. We have not seen that level of trust in any individual, organization or institution at all in our past research.”

He said Canadians see doctors explaining what is happening to them every day right now, during a very stressful time in which the pandemic is overriding almost every part of our lives.

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, a former astronaut and engineer, has made promoting science one of the hallmarks of her time at Rideau Hall. In a virtual conversation Thursday with Mona Nemer, Canada’s chief science adviser, Payette extolled the role science was playing in the pandemic, including by convincing Canadians that in the absence of a vaccine or good treatments for COVID-19, staying home is the best way to save lives.

“So I think that everything we have done so far, this battle has been so far won by science and I think we’re going to get out of it through science and I hope that as we move forward we’re going to remember this and we’re going to use all these science brains and all the capacity we have in the country,” Payette said.

The Proof index showed governments have also benefited from a bump in confidence, with 33 per cent of those surveyed expressing trust in government in January, and 40 per cent in early May. MacLellan said that is likely because as the pandemic marched in, Canadians realized maybe more than ever how much they were going to rely on government to get through it.

“They see the pandemic as an issue that is going to require government to solve,” he said. “This is the moment for the government.”

Small businesses, non-profit organizations and charities, all saw a bounce upwards in trust.

Trust in the media, CEOs and teachers, on the other hand, has fallen.

The news media had been enjoying a comeback of confidence in January, with 44 per cent of those surveyed trusting media, up from 40 a year earlier. But in the midst of the pandemic, trust in media has plummeted to just 33 per cent, its lowest level recorded by Proof since it began the trust index in 2016.

CEOs similarly saw trust fall to an all-time low of just 30 per cent, down from 38 per cent in January and 55 per cent two years ago.

Educators remain among the more trusted in our society, at 59 per cent, but that was down from 65 per cent in January. MacLellan said many parents, faced with schooling their kids at home and with school systems not all well-equipped to support that, may be feeling less confidence in educators as a result.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2020.

— With files from Stephanie Levitz.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta children whose only symptom of COVID-19 is a runny nose or a sore throat will no longer require mandatory isolation, starting Monday.
477 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Thursday

Changes being made to the COVID-19 symptom list for school-age children

Three young Sylvan Lake residents are asking for lights to be added to the walking trail system to make them safer and less scary at night. Photo by @workinonmyfitness72
Young Sylvan Lake residents ask for lights to be added to walking trails

Three young Sylvan Lake residents appeared before Council recently to present their ask

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Town of Sylvan Lake recieves funding to help with COVID-19 related revenue losses

Minister Devin Dreeshen says the funding will help the Town pay staff and provide services

There were 410 COVID-19 cases recorded in Alberta Wednesday. (File photo by The Associated Press)
Alberta records 410 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday

Central zone dropped to 160 active cases

Shaun Isaac, owner of Woodchucker Firewood in Trochu, is awaiting a new shipment during a firewood shortage in the province. All of the wood he has left is being saved for long-time customers who need it to heat their homes. (Contributed photo).
Firewood shortage in central Alberta caused by rising demand, gaps in supply

‘I’ve said “No” to more people than ever’: firewood seller

Pilots Ilona Carter and Jim Gray of iRecover Treatment Centres, in front of his company’s aircraft, based at Ponoka’s airport. (Perry Wilson/Submitted)
95-year-old Ilona Carter flies again

Takes to the skies over Ponoka

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz says the province plans to bring in a new way of licensing and monitoring child-care facilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Alberta proposes legislation to change rules on child-care spaces

Record-keeping, traditionally done on paper, would be allowed digitally

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Most Read