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Op/Ed: Survey shows strong majority of British Columbians support province’s handling of COVID-19, regardless of political colours

Survey results are based on an online survey of 2,289 English-speaking BC residents aged 18 years and older, conducted between May 16 to June 1, 2020.

A strong majority of British Columbians across the political spectrum — and throughout the province — support the provincial government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and believe further government action is key to a successful recovery, a new survey commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives BC Office shows.

Large numbers of British Columbians, however, are also worried about the pandemic’s impacts on themselves and others, and say the strain is not equally shared.

Asked how governments should focus their efforts to stimulate the economy after the pandemic, three quarters of respondents (73 per cent) chose “build a better, more equitable and sustainable economy” over “just rebuild the existing economy”.

Survey results are based on an online survey of 2,289 English-speaking BC residents aged 18 years and older, conducted between May 16 to June 1, 2020.

“As the provincial and federal governments continue to navigate the immediate impacts of the pandemic, British Columbians resoundingly support the continuation and expansion of a wide range of economic and social supports — from universal public seniors’ care to employer-paid sick time for all workers to raising social assistance rates above the poverty line,“ said Shannon Daub, Director of CCPA-BC.

Specific levels of support for these policies include 83 per cent for universal public seniors care, 77 per cent for employer-paid sick time and 67 per cent for a major increase to social assistance rates, with that support holding across regions and partisan lines.

The survey also shows that nearly eight in 10 British Columbians (79 per cent) want governments to make public services more accessible and seven in 10 (71 per cent) support increased taxes on wealth and corporate profits to pay for the costs of COVID-19. On both counts, majorities of decided voters for the three major political parties support these actions. 

More than three in four British Columbians (77 per cent) think the province is on the right track with strong positive impressions of the provincial government’s handling of the pandemic (71 per cent). Support varies among decided voters: NDP followed by Green voters are most likely to hold positive views, but support is notably strong across partisan lines with 69 per cent of decided Liberal voters saying the province is on the right track and 60 per cent having a positive impression of the government’s pandemic response. 

“At the same time as we see these strong levels of support for BC’s response to the pandemic, large numbers of British Columbians are also worried about the impact of COVID-19 on themselves and others,” said Alex Hemingway, CCPA-BC economist and public finance analyst. 

Most say they are concerned about the health and safety of a family member or loved one, but also about violence against women and workplace safety. Large minorities are also concerned about the pandemic’s impact on their own personal situations, including their overall financial situation (43 per cent), personal health and safety (39 per cent), access to health care (37 per cent), mental health (35 per cent), childcare support (24 per cent) and ability to obtain adequate food or groceries (23 per cent).

These worries are not equally shared, however, with concern levels reflective of larger socio-economic inequalities. For example, people who have experienced a total loss of income as a result of COVID-19 are particularly likely to be worried about both personal and collective well-being. 

Renters are more likely to be concerned about their financial situation, followed by homeowners with a mortgage (compared to owners without a mortgage). A similar pattern holds for concern about one’s own mental health—and differences by housing status are more striking than differences across income groups. 

“Overall, these responses reveal a great deal of pandemic-induced strain, and the need for both the federal and provincial governments to extend COVID-related economic supports as long as the pandemic continues,” said Hemingway. 

“The coronavirus pandemic has put governments and societies around the world to the test as they confront what is both a public health and economic crisis, and one that is not going away anytime soon,” said Daub.

“BC has fared well to date in containing the spread of the virus and stands out among Canadian provinces with a relatively strong package of economic and social policy measures. British Columbians clearly approve and want to see continued bold action now and throughout the recovery.” 

For a more detailed review of the survey results, see the full analysis on Policy Note.