OTTAWA — There’s been a noticeable decline in Canadians’ trust in their leaders and institutions as the pandemic drags on, and it’s particularly striking among those who remain anxious or stressed by COVID-19, a new poll finds. .

“When 46% of Canadians say they still feel anxiety and stress, it hurts trust in Canada,” said Bruce MacLellan, CEO of Proof Strategies.

The data is part of the 2022 edition of Proof’s Trust Index, a survey Proof normally conducts annually but has conducted more than once a year since the pandemic began.

This version is based on an online poll taken by 1,536 people, from January 4 to 14, but cannot be given a margin of error because Internet polls are not considered random samples.

The Trust Index suggests that general trust in governments, businesses, media and advocacy groups was already declining before the pandemic. The 2018 survey found that 45% of respondents trust these groups to be competent and effective. In 2020, that figure had fallen to 38%, and this year it has fallen to 34%.

This is largely due to growing trust in governments, with only 22% saying they trust governments or politicians, compared to 40% at the start of the pandemic in May 2020.

“It has been a huge problem to deal with and politicians have made sometimes contradictory decisions. They had to backtrack at times and that shook confidence,” MacLellan said.

Nationally, one in three respondents said they trust the premier and almost as many said they trust their provincial premier. At the start of the pandemic, 43% trusted the prime minister and 44% said they trusted their prime minister.

For the first time, Proof included a question about pandemic anxiety and stress. About one in four people surveyed have never experienced stress from COVID-19 and are also the least likely to express trust in institutions such as the healthcare system or leaders including politicians, doctors and government officials. scientists, with only 31% saying they trust these areas. .

Nearly half of respondents said they were and still are anxious or stressed about COVID-19, and are only slightly more likely, at 32%, to trust institutions or leaders than those who don’t. ‘ve never been stressed about it.

About one in three said they had been anxious or stressed about COVID-19, but are no longer, and that they trusted governments or other leaders like public health officials significantly more.

About two-thirds of those who are no longer anxious said they trust medical officers of health to be able to manage the Omicron variant and the healthcare system in general.

Of those still stressed by the pandemic, only 50% trust medical officers of health to manage Omicron successfully, and 56% said they trust the healthcare system.

MacLellan said that while trust in politicians is plummeting, trust in doctors and scientists has remained stable and very high. Nearly four out of five people surveyed said they trust doctors and three out of four said they trust scientists.

“So pandemic fatigue and pandemic anxiety, stress and division have hit trust in politicians and faith in government the hardest,” MacLellan said. “So that’s something politicians should all look at and think about, the importance of how to restore trust in government.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 9, 2022.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press