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COVID-19 Boosts Trust in Science and Support for Genomics Research

For Immediate Release
Calgary, April 29, 2020

A representative public opinion survey of adults in Alberta, commissioned by Genome Alberta, indicates public trust in scientific experts has risen during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis. The online survey of 750 adults, conducted April 16-21, found that Albertans are closely following the course of events and they feel well informed about the pandemic. They also feel positive about the local, provincial and government responses to the crisis, and support increased investments in genomics research.
Highlights of the survey results include:
COVID-19 Dominates Agenda
• COVID-19 coronavirus concerns top the list of important issues facing Alberta (66%), ahead of concerns about the economy (47%), jobs (30%), the price of oil (30%), pipelines (27%) and healthcare (23%). Women mention COVID-19 more often than men.

COVID-19 Boosts Trust in Scientific Experts
• The COVID-19 crisis has prompted a rise in scientific credibility: 37% of Albertans say it has increased their trust in science, compared to 17% who say their trust has been eroded, for a net increase of +20. Scientific distrust is higher in remote areas of Alberta, where net scores are only +8 in small towns and -5 in rural areas. (See Figure 1)
Support for Genomics Research Funding Has Increased
• Support for government investment in genomics research continues to rise. In December 2018, 46% wanted funding to be maintained or increased, but that has shot up to 63% as of April 2020. The proportion that desire increased funding has more than doubled in the past 15 months, from 9% to 21%. (See Figure 2)

Albertans Are Staying Well Informed Via Online and TV Sources
• Most Albertans are staying informed about COVID-19 developments frequently (76% get updates daily and 12% hourly), while 95% feel informed about the crisis. (See Figure 3)
• Almost all Albertans use online sources for news about COVID-19 (95%), with close to half turning to online sources as their primary way to learn about the crisis. TV is also a frequent source, with 84% using TV at least to some extent and 37% using it as their primary means of staying informed. Radio (63%) and printed materials (58%) are used less frequently as a main source of information. (See Figure 4)
• Younger Albertans (18-34) primarily use online sources (61%) rather than TV (24%). The opposite is true for Albertans 55 years or older; 55% primarily use TV compared to 34% who primarily use online sources. (See Figure 5)

Numerous Sources Keep Albertans Informed About COVID-19
• Specific online sources include Facebook (41% of the share), CBC.ca (18%), Twitter (14%), CTV and Global News online (10% each), Instagram (8%), Linked In (7%), Google (5%) and CNN (4%).
• TV stations used most frequently by Albertans for COVID-19 information include CTV (66%), Global (65%), CBC (52%), CNN (26%), BBC World News (15%) and Fox News (8%). Half of Fox News watchers (48%) say their trust in science has eroded due to COVID-19, compared to 17% of total Albertans.
• The dominant radio source is CBC (43%), followed by 660 News (22%) and QR77 (10%), CKUA and 630 Ched (5% each).

High Ratings for Government Crisis Response
• Albertans rate all three levels of government positively in responding to COVID-19. The Government of Alberta’s response is rated as adequate or better by almost nine in ten Albertans. The Government of Canada and municipal governments are rated as responding adequately or well by four in five Albertans. (See Figure 6)

Albertans Concerned About Ability of Province to Pay for Services
• Albertans are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on many facets of their lives, but they worry most about the impact on Alberta’s healthcare system (88%) and the ability of the province to pay for services (88%). Three-quarters also worry about their family’s health and two-thirds worry about finances, catching COVID-19 or their family’s mental health. (See Figure 7)
                                             (See our backgrounder for Figures 1-7)
 
Commenting on the results of the survey, Mike Spear, Director of Corporate Communications for Genome Alberta, said:
  • "It is heartening to see that Albertans are staying well informed about COVID-19, and that this crisis is prompting an increase in support for scientific research like genomics, as well as a rise in overall trust in scientific experts.”
Bruce Cameron, President of Return On Insight and long-time political trend analyst, noted that:
 
  • “The high ratings given to all orders of government by Albertans during this crisis is a vote of confidence in the public health strategies being implemented. Despite the economic pain and health concerns, trust in science and government leadership remains high in Alberta, even among former critics of government.”
 
A Note on Methodology:
The representative survey of residents of Alberta was conducted via an online panel, ensuring that a statistically accurate cross-section of the province was interviewed, based upon region, gender and age. Return On Insight conducted the survey, which included 750 competed surveys, collected between April 16 and 21 2020. A probability sample of 750 is accurate to within +/-3.5% at a 95% confidence level. The results of this survey are likely to be within 3.5 percentage points of a complete census of the opinion of Albertans, 19 times out of 20.
 
To learn more about the numbers and what they mean, contact:
 
Mike Spear
Director Corporate Communications
Genome Alberta
403-813-5843
 
Bruce Cameron
President
Return On Insight
@ROiTweets
403-850-4068
 
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COVID-19 Boosts Trust in Science and Support for Genomics Research

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