05/07/2020 10:17 EDT | Updated 05/07/2020 11:08 EDT

Coronavirus vs. Economy Poll Finds Health Fears Outweigh Financial Concerns

Canadians are among the most likely to say we should focus on saving the most lives in the pandemic, even at the cost of further economic damage.

Residents of the Kew Gardens Hills neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York line up for free face masks, Tues. May 5, 2020.

LONDON (Reuters) ― A substantial majority of people around the world want their governments to prioritise saving lives over moves to restart economies being hammered by measures aimed at halting the spread of the new coronavirus, a global survey found.

The latest findings of the “Edelman Trust Barometer,” which for two decades has polled tens of thousands of people on their trust in core institutions, challenge the notion that “lockdown fatigue” is rising among populations hit by the pandemic.

Overall, 67 per cent of the 13,200-plus people interviewed between April 15 and April 23 agreed with the statement: “The government’s highest priority should be saving as many lives as possible even if it means the economy will recover more slowly.”

Watch: Polling shows most Americans want to do everything they can to beat the coronavirus. Story continues below.


Just one-third backed the assertion: “It is becoming more important for the government to save jobs and restart the economy than to take every precaution to keep people safe.”

The study, produced by U.S. communications company Edelman, was based on fieldwork carried out in Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In Canada, 73 per cent of respondents agrees public health should be prioritized, tied with the U.K. for the seond-highest rate in the survey, behind only Japan at 76 per cent.

That compares against just 56 per cent in China, where the outbreak was first detected late last year. China now has only a handful of new cases a day, after imposing a strict lockdown earlier.

Edelman/HuffPost Canada
Canadians were among the most likely to prioritize fighting the coronavirus over economic concerns in a new poll from public relations firm Edelman.

“It’s complicated because you have two crises simultaneously ― a health crisis and an economic crisis,” said Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman.

“But people are saying, ‘We’ve already had six to seven weeks of this (restriction on activity), what’s another week or two?’”

Governments around the world have varied widely in their response to the pandemic since its first known outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan in early December.

Authorities in New Zealand and Vietnam have been praised for early moves to halt the spread with social distancing measures while governments in the United States, U.K., Japan, Russia and elsewhere have faced criticism for a lack of preparedness.

The Edelman survey found, however, that trust in the institution of government had risen across the board, with an overall gain of 11 points from its January survey to an all-time study high of 65 per cent.

That figure reflected an appreciation of state support for the economy and the work of public health services. Conversely, only 29 per cent agreed that CEOs and business leaders were doing an “outstanding job” meeting the demands of the moment.

“Business will be looked at very closely in the months ahead,” Edelman said, citing how companies perform in areas such as retaining and reskilling workers or using small businesses in their supply chains.

(Reporting by Mark John in London; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

― Reuters, with a file from HuffPost Canada