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The Essential Pandemic Reduced to One Chart

[Ottawa – February 4, 2022] As we move into the third year of the pandemic and review some 1,500 charts we have collected, which one best captures where we are today? While difficult to reduce this complexity to a single chart, the chart below captures some of the most critical features of where we are today.

One of these features is the polarization around critical debates, particularly vaccine passports. Overall, a clear majority of Canadians continue to favour vaccine passports, though the minority opposition is intense and loud. This polarization is driven primarily by two key forces: 1) institutional mistrust; and 2) disinformation.

For this research, we have created a disinformation index that uses a set of seven true-or-false questions about the pandemic and assigns each respondent a score ranging from 0 to 21 depending on how strongly they believe each of these statements (more details below). Overall, the index is remarkably predictive of trust and, in particular, opposition to vaccine passports. Of those who are well-informed, only two per cent oppose the use of vaccine passports. Of those who are highly disinformed, 100 per cent oppose passports. Furthermore, the progression from complete support to complete opposition ranges in a straight-line progression depending on how much disinformation one believes.

Disinformation is at the very heart of the intense polarization gripping the country and, without an understanding of its roots and impacts, we will continue to experience polarization on many other issues regardless of what the scientific evidence says.

Description of disinformation index:

For this research, we tested seven separate indicators of disinformation and we have constructed a disinformation index, a 21-point scale that measures how strongly respondents believe these seven pieces of disinformation:

  • COVID-19 was manufactured in a lab;
  • The reported number of COVID-19 deaths is being exaggerated;
  • Vaccine-related deaths are being concealed from the public;
  • Ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19;
  • COVID-19 vaccines can cause infertility;
  • COVID-19 vaccines can alter a patient’s DNA; and
  • Whether someone is vaccinated should make no difference to someone who is fully vaccinated.

The index is constructed as follows:

  • A respondent receives three points for every statement they rate as completely true or strongly agree.
  • A respondent receives two points for every statement they rate as mostly true or somewhat agree.
  • A respondent receives one point for every statement they skip (in other words, for every statement they are unable to correctly categorize as false).

Note that a respondent does not receive a point for skipping the statement regarding the effectiveness of ivermectin, as many respondents may simply not recognize the name.

Methodology:

This survey was conducted using EKOS’ unique, hybrid online/telephone research panel, Probit. Our panel offers exhaustive coverage of the Canadian population (i.e., Internet, phone, cell phone), random recruitment (in other words, participants are recruited randomly, they do not opt themselves into our panel), and equal probability sampling. All respondents to our panel are recruited by telephone using random digit dialling and are confirmed by live interviewers. Unlike opt-in online panels, Probit supports margin of error estimates.

The field dates for this survey are January 18-24, 2022. In total, a random sample of 1,225 Canadians aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, sex, age, education). All the data have been statistically weighted by age, gender, and region to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to Census data.

EKOS follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements.

Please click here for a copy of the data tables from this survey.

Please click here for a copy of the questionnaire that was used for this survey.

14 comments to The Essential Pandemic Reduced to One Chart

  • Alex S.

    “Disinformation” index? Disingenuous more like. The questions chosen in the survey are far from agreed upon, even in the scientific community.

    COVID-19 was manufactured in a lab: There is healthy debate on this topic and continues today.

    The reported number of COVID-19 deaths is being exaggerated: This is unknowable, but in certain places where COVID deaths are high but overall mortality remains the same, this is a valid concern

    Whether someone is vaccinated should make no difference to someone who is fully vaccinated: This is just a values question.

    I could go on but calling this disinformation is disingenuous, that is not being fair. Though your index that you invented yourselves may provide some insights or prove useful in other ways, to call these questions about the pandemic disinformation is not right.

    • Found someone with a high misinformation index.

    • Sandrider

      I consider myself relatively well-informed on the Covid situation and I agree 100% with Alex S. The questionnaire makes assumptions. Just because current thinking supports one position does not make it true.

    • Gabe

      Whether someone is vaccinated should make no difference to someone who is fully vaccinated is NOT just a values question; Anyone with an immunocompromised loved one (and considering the fact that over a third of Canadians have 1 or more aggravating factor for Covid, that’s almost everybody) is completely justified in wanting everyone (who can) to be vaccinated.

      Humans are social creatures, we don’t live in a bubble – while the vaccine has been proven time and time again to reduce the severity of covid, that doesn’t guarantee survival for those with pre-existing health conditions, let alone the ones who couldn’t get it at all due to the aforementioned issues. I doubt you’re making the argument that someone with a husband / wife, or brother / sister with a compromised immune system has no legitimate stake in whether people who CAN get vaccinated ARE, but if you are, stop for a second and think about how silly that is.

      As for the exaggeration argument, it’s true that there’s some level of uncertainty there but if you’ve been paying any attention at all to the conspiracy theorists you’ll know that it’s a keystone in their fantastical interpretation of events; Most reasonable people would read the exaggeration question as INTENTIONALLY exaggerated – it’s pretty clear that’s what they’re implying, especially in the context.

      I don’t think your skepticism is unfounded, as the phrasing for a few questions could have been more explicit, but people will interpret a question based on their own cognitive biases – conspiracists will want to answer yes and denounce anything with the potential of “exposing the truth” and the rest of us will consider the question and answer accordingly. Nothing substantially wrong with the survey.

  • steve oberski

    Dear Alex,

    Much gratitude for providing the canonical high disinformation response.

  • Kevin

    There’s debate that it escaped from a lab, not manufactured. There question about exaggeration implies that people are lying. All the other questions are scientifically demonstrably statements of disinformation. Seems like a fairly accurate barometer to me.

  • Brett N.

    Have to agree with Alex S. There isn’t enough consensus on the points he raised to call someone who says “I don’t know if COVID came from a lab” as someone impacted by disinformation – as nobody knows where the source of the virus.

    The same goes for someone who answers they don’t know if COVID-19 deaths being exaggerated. As we probably won’t know this for sure until we’re through the pandemic and can go through the data.

  • frank graves

    There is no serious debate about whether it was manufactured in a lab. No serious scientist says that . There has been a serious debate about whether it leaked from a lab but the current expert views on that are returning to the zoonotic leap theory. The question wasn’t whether deaths are exaggerated but whether this was being manipulated. The numbers may be unknowable but governments aren’t knowingly falsifying them (too many checks and balances). Epidemiologists agree that the higher the rate of vaccination the lower the rate of spread.It does not confer sterile immunity but it definitely reduces R0

  • Loran Hayden

    I cannot believe you did not include political leanings in your list of key forces.

  • Laurie weston

    Would like to see an option whereby one has none of the misinformation issue and is fully informed however still holds the opinion that the time has arrived when the community is now as fully vaccinated as it will be and the time for resuming normal life has arrived. The most vulnerable and compromised will need to be super cautious and the rest of society will carry on with the risk which has been mitigated to best level achievable.

  • Jason

    Alex is moderate or high on that scale. High on disinformation and clueless about it.

  • Alexander

    So I’m guessing Alex S is against vaccine passports.

  • Thomas Smitherman

    This is really petty nonsense.

    Let´s go through the list:

    1. “COVID was manufactured in a lab”
    —100% yes. This is what the EXPERTS say is likely. If you say you aren´t sure, okay, but an informed individual would necessarily receive 2-3 “misinformation points” here. Even Fauci, who was involved, doesn´t deny this and would at least take one point based on his public pronouncements.

    2. “The reported number of COVID deaths is being exaggerated”
    —100% yes – at least in certain countries like the US (I don´t know the exact criteria used in Canada). This is well admitted and anyone can read CDC guidelines for coroners from the early portion of the pandemic. 3 points likely.

    3. “Vaccine-related deaths concealed from the public”
    —What do you think? They called the vaccine 100% safe and effective when it first came out – even though the doctored trials said 95% … then they say 75-80% … then they say it wears off after 2-3 months. At the same time, you hear anecdotally about many deaths – and there is always some contrived excuse. Media reports appear about how common strokes and heart attacks are in young people. 3 points.

    4. “Ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19”
    —2-3 points. Safe if used correctly and effective in applied early (best as prophylactic/preventative). Can be unsafe and ineffective otherwise. This is what ACTUAL EXPERTS say.

    5. “COVID-19 vaccines can cause infertility”
    —1 point. Who knows? It isn´t disproved. The only study I have seen about it was preliminary and published in APRIL 2021. Trials weren´t completed on the normal, multi-year schedule which would have allowed us to know the answer before young ladies took the risk.

    6. “COVID-19 vaccines can alter a patient’s DNA”
    —1 point. Who knows? Why should I take a CBC article on faith. But there is no proof of this that I know of, either.

    7. “Whether someone is vaccinated should make no difference to someone who is fully vaccinated.”
    —If the vaccine were effective then obviously it should make no difference. 3 points.

    So an actually educated person who reads beyond some State and corporate media headlines would have about 15 points on this scale. Only a hugely naive idiot, who does and believes everything he is told by anyone more powerful than he, would have 0 points.

    Shame!

  • frankly

    The efficacy of our information sources is what is being measured in these polls. The Nuremberg trials clearly laid out how to do medical experiments and we disobey their rulings. Our own charter of rights are being trampled on for the dubious benefit of those with pre-existing co-morbidities. Let them stay home, I don’t need to.
    Many of you take as facts information that has been repeated endlessly per well established propaganda techniques. Just because CNN repeated the same lie 1000 times a day does not make it true. I quite watching tv in 1979. Very little film either. I read a lot. Both sides of most questions. The 3 most abused words we see? Safe Effective Science. If Anthony Fauci is involved it’s only about money and power.
    Yeah and Osama crashed the twin towers but who brought down 7?

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