Older, right-leaning Canadian men are far more likely than their fellow citizens to consider the threat of COVID-19 to be exaggerated, and they’re proving more reluctant to practice recommended prevention measures like scrupulous handwashing and social distancing, according to recent research by the Angus Reid Institute.
“One in every eight adults is of the view that the threat of a coronavirus outbreak is ‘overblown,’” Angus Reid reports. Notably “cavalier” in their attitude to things like handwashing and self-isolation, such people “are also likely to say things will get ‘back to normal’ more quickly than those who say the threat is serious.”
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ARI released its report March 30, when the number of confirmed cases in Canada was about 6,000. By April 5, less than a week later, that number had far more than doubled.
This cocky disregard both for scientific fact and the profound economic disruption that attends the pandemic is largely seen in men 55 years and over who voted Conservative in the last federal election. COVID denial within that group was highest in Quebec, followed by Alberta, and then British Columbia. The men of the Atlantic provinces were least likely to dismiss scientific fact.
A similar correlation between political stripe and a level of inclination to consistent handwashing can be found in the United States, reports Grist, citing several recent polls. Republican leaders, voters, and states seem far more inclined to play down the risk of COVID-19 than their Democratic peers, a partisan divide in information spread that has endangered, and is still endangering, the lives of Americans.
Grist also notes a correlation between COVID-19 denial and the refusal to accept that anthropogenic climate change is a real and very present danger. University of Bristol psychology professor Stephan Lewandowsky said he wasn’t surprised by the correlation.
“Online, some of the ‘professional’ climate deniers are also now professional downplayers of COVID,” Lewandowsky told Grist. “They perceive it as a threat, in the same way that climate change is—not just to the economy, but also to the way in which the economy operates.”
He added that certain political views can drive rejection of scientific evidence on any issue.
“People who champion individualism, idolize the free market, or take an anti-big government stance may find it easier to downplay the severity of these crises than to imagine a world in which economically devastating work stoppages—or even carbon taxes—are required,” he told Grist.
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