WASHINGTON — COVID-19 has damaged the trust Canadians have in their American neighbours, while U.S. residents collectively have more faith in their northern counterparts than they do in themselves, a new online poll suggests.
The survey, conducted last week by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, found only 33 per cent of respondents in Canada who expressed trust in Americans, compared with 58 per cent in a similar survey in November of last year.
And of respondents living in the U.S., 71 per cent said they trusted Canadians, compared with 67 per cent who expressed trust in their fellow citizens.
"You're seeing a generalized diminishing of trust in the United States," said Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, a non-profit group that conducts research in the name of a broader understanding of the country and its people.
In the U.S., a country already riven along deep political fault lines, the COVID-19 crisis in many ways appears to be exploiting and widening those divisions, Jedwab said, while much the opposite has been happening in Canada, where the Opposition Conservatives have only recently renewed their parliamentary feud with the governing Liberals.
"We haven't seen the same type of division across the country as we're seeing in the United States, where there's already a political undercurrent between Republicans and Democrats, with an election not too far away ... right now, it just strikes me that there's probably a lot more solidarity and not as much of the partisan divisiveness."
The research, conducted May 1 to 3, surveyed 1,515 Canadians and 1,012 Americans. Polls conducted from internet panels do not carry a margin of error because they are not considered random samples.
Canadians are no doubt casting a wary eye on their U.S. cousins after weeks of seeing what is now a familiar American image: legions of protesters, some clad in military fatigues and toting assault rifles in a brazen display of constitutional freedom, descending on state capitols across the country to demand they be allowed to resume their normal lives.
Those pictures are now slowly giving way to scenes of some Americans doing just that: gathering on beaches, visiting barbershops and reopening long-shuttered small businesses, much to the dismay of public health officials who fear even more crippling flareups of COVID-19 as a result.
"I view these last couple of days as the beginning," U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday before departing the White House for a visit to a Honeywell medical-gear manufacturing facility in Arizona.
"We're going to build the greatest economy in the world again, and it's going to happen pretty fast ... Now it's time to go back to work."
CNN reported Monday that internal White House projections of the U.S. death toll had doubled to 134,000, a number Trump said assumes no mitigation efforts, which he insists are continuing despite the gradual reopening efforts. Dr. Deborah Birx, co-ordinator of the coronavirus response team, has recently reverted to the original models of between 100,000 and 240,000, "with full mitigation."
A New York Times report, meanwhile, cited an internal document that said daily U.S. deaths could reach 3,000 by June, up from the current rate of 2,000 deaths a day.
Despite just 31,000 active cases, a burden that pales in comparison to the nearly one million active cases in U.S., Canadians don't appear to be in any hurry. Provinces are only gradually beginning to throw open the shutters and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pounded home a better-safe-than-sorry approach — one with which Canadians agree, recent polls suggest.
Not surprising, then, that a Leger/ACS survey conducted April 24 to 26 found 66 per cent of Canadian respondents nervous about COVID-19 cases arriving in Canada from the U.S., compared with only 19 per cent of those in the U.S. worried about the novel coronavirus travelling south.
That poll also found 34 per cent of Americans surveyed would be comfortable taking a vacation in Canada once travel restrictions are lifted, compared with 19 per cent of Canadians asked about heading south of the border.
Jedwab said he doesn't see the current ban on non-essential travel between the two countries being lifted any time soon, however.
"I don't know that our mindset is going to permit us to do that at this point," he said. "I think the level of distrust is very high, and there's also the concerns about travel generally, both ways. So I'm not persuaded we will."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2020.
James McCarten, The Canadian Press