WASHINGTON — Canadians believe the COVID-19 crisis has brought their country together, while Americans blame the pandemic for worsening their cultural and political divide, a new international public opinion survey suggests.
Fully two-thirds of Canadian respondents to the Pew Research Center study released Thursday say they believe Canada is more united as a result of the novel coronavirus, while 77 per cent of U.S. participants feel precisely the opposite is true south of the border.
“In the U.S., where a patchwork of coronavirus-related restrictions reflects broad disagreement over the best path to economic recovery while mitigating the spread of the virus, roughly three-quarters say that the U.S. is more divided than before the coronavirus outbreak,” the centre said in a release.
“In contrast, nearly three-quarters in Denmark say there is more unity now than before the coronavirus outbreak. More than half in Canada, Sweden, South Korea and Australia also say their countries have become more united since the coronavirus outbreak.”
A similar bilateral gap emerged when those surveyed were asked about how their respective countries responded to the emergency.
In Canada, 88 per cent of respondents said they approved of their country’s response to COVID-19, compared with just 47 per cent of Americans who feel the same way about how the U.S. has responded.
In every country surveyed, those who think their country has done a bad job of dealing with the coronavirus outbreak are more likely to say that their country is now more divided.Pew Research Center study
That’s no coincidence, said Pew, which noted a distinct connection between respondents disappointed in the response to the pandemic in their country and the likelihood they felt divisions had worsened.
“In every country surveyed, those who think their country has done a bad job of dealing with the coronavirus outbreak are more likely to say that their country is now more divided.”
The Canadian portion of the study involved 1,037 respondents across the country who were surveyed by phone between June 15 and July 27, and the American section had 1,003 U.S. participants who took part between June 16 and July 14.
Both components of the survey carry a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The survey, which involved participants from 14 countries including the U.K., France, Italy, Australia, Japan and South Korea, also found a majority of respondents believe the global spread of COVID-19 could have been mitigated with stronger international co-operation.
“A 14-country median of 59 per cent say that if their country had co-operated more with other countries, the number of coronavirus cases would have been lower in their country. In comparison, a median of 36 per cent say such co-operation would have been futile in reducing cases.”
That sentiment was especially strong in Europe, which was hit hard by the virus in the earliest days of the pandemic, particularly in Italy and Spain.
In the U.S., where President Donald Trump has largely taken a go-it-alone approach, 58 per cent of respondents said the number of American cases could have been reduced had the country worked more closely with other countries.
Women who took part in the survey reported a disproportionate impact from the pandemic in 12 of the 14 represented countries. In Canada, 69 per cent reported that their lives had changed either a “great deal” or a “fair amount,” compared with 57 per cent of men.
“Women around the world typically do more unpaid work at home than their male counterparts, such as child care and housework, and this may be amplified by closure of schools and day care centres to combat the spread of COVID-19,” Pew reported.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has also said that more women than men around the world are employed part-time, “which is more likely to have been interrupted by the pandemic.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27. 2020.