COVID-19 and Delayed Political Polarization in Canada

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with large degrees of deep partisan polarization. In the US case, partisanship rapidly became associated with differences in the willingness to practice social distancing, to wear a mask, and eventually to get vaccinated. It was also associated with different risk perceptions about COVID and different relationships between COVID concern and evaluation of incumbents. The Canadian case is different. Partisan differences in evaluations of COVID and behavioural responses to it were small through the first year of the pandemic, but then began to widen. Drawing on more than 100,000 survey interviews with Canadians, we explore why political polarization over COVID was delayed.

Peter Loewen is the director of the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy and a professor of political science at the University of Toronto. He is also the director of the Policy, Elections & Representation Lab (PEARL), associate director of the Schwartz Reisman Institute, a Senior Fellow at Massey College, and a fellow with the Public Policy Forum. His research interests include the future of democratic societies; policy, elections and representation; political polarization; and citizens’ perceptions of elected officials. Professor Loewen’s work has been published in numerous journals, and he is a regular contributor to the media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Globe & Mail, Toronto Star and National Post.
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