English-speaking Quebecers fear COVID-19 more than francophones, poll suggests

Anxiety levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic depend not just on where people live in Quebec, but also on their mother tongue, suggests a web survey conducted by Léger Marketing. 

Survey results to be presented in Quebec Community Groups Network webinar

COVID-19 is on almost everybody's minds these days, but not everybody feels the same way about the pandemic and the government's response, a new web-based poll found. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Anxiety levels surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic vary based not just on where people live in Quebec, but also on their mother tongue, a web survey conducted by Léger Marketing has found. 

Allophone and anglophone respondents are much more likely to fear that they or somebody in their immediate family will catch the disease than francophones are, the survey found.

More English-speaking respondents said they are donating to charities than French speakers do, and views vary on how the provincial government is handling the crisis.

The poll was commissioned by the Quebec Community Groups Network, an umbrella group representing English-language community groups across the province, and the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies (ACS).

The findings will be presented by ACS president Jack Jedwab at a webinar at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Those interested can register through this online form.

The survey was conducted from May 1 to 6. A total of 1,638 randomly recruited adult Quebecers responded, and of those, 694 were English speakers.

Jedwab said no margin of error can be associated with a non-probability sample such as a web panel, but for comparative purposes, a probability sample of 1,515 respondents would have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.52 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Fear varies slightly by location, survey indicates

The pollsters reached out to people all over the province, but Jedwab said the findings could be affected by the place of residence of respondents.

For example, he explained, given that Montreal is the epicentre of the pandemic in Quebec and that there is a high concentration of anglophones on the island, anglophone respondents are more likely to come from Montreal and be more fearful of catching the disease, as compared to francophones who are more representative of all regions. 

That said, "even anglophones outside of Montreal also have a bit higher levels of anxiety than francophones do across the province," said Jedwab.

Anglophones outside of Montreal indicated they are a bit less worried than Anglo Montrealers are, but their levels of anxiety proved "disproportionately higher" than francophones, he said.

Demographer Jack Jedwab is the president of the Association for Canadian Studies and the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration, based in Montreal. (CBC)

No matter what language they speak at home, 85 per cent of respondents said they are satisfied with the way public health agencies and local governments were handling the pandemic.

However, 91 per cent of francophone respondents said they were satisfied with the provincial government's response versus 74 per cent of anglophones and allophones.

A total of seven per cent of anglophones surveyed have volunteered to work with a charity, and 22 per cent have donated to a charity during this pandemic. Two per cent of allophones volunteered and 19 per cent donated, according to the poll.

As for francophones, three per cent of  respondents said they volunteered, and 11 per cent said they donated.

No 'one-size-fits-all' solution

Jedwab said the survey shows there is a wide spectrum of anxiety levels, depending in part on people's backgrounds, and the various levels of government and health authorities need to be sensitive to that moving forward.

"When our policymakers talk about deconfinement, they need to have a better handle on how the population is feeling, in its diversity," he said.

The data provides a look at how vulnerable groups and minorities may feel about reopening the economy, borders and schools.

Pandemic-lockdown restrictions should be eased in a way that is sensitive to people's concerns, as indicated by that data, he said.

"It's not a one-size-fits all solution in terms of the deconfinement process and the engagement process," Jedwab said.

He called on the government to come up with solutions that show "a lot of sensitivity and capacity to speak to people in ways that help them address their particular concerns, vulnerabilities and sensitivities."

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