Wave 10

COSMO Canada

Implementing the WHO Behavioural Insights tool on COVID-19 to inform response efforts, including policy, interventions and communications.


To support federal response efforts, Impact Canada is leading the implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Behavioural Insights (BI) Tool on COVID-19 in the Canadian context. This work is led in collaboration with the Public Opinion Research Team within the Privy Council Office’s (PCO) Communications and Consultation Secretariat, which supports the Prime Minister’s Office in coordinating government communications in accordance with key priorities.

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With a longitudinal design, the study follows 2,000 participants recruited from an online panel over sixteen data collection waves. New participants are added only when an original panelist stops participating.

Respondents are a representative mix of Canadian adults aged 18 years and older and results are weighted using 2016 Statistics Canada census data to mirror the population distribution in Canada.


When interpreting the COSMO results it is useful to keep in mind the context of the data collection period, which may or may not have influenced the responses of survey participants.

During the Wave 10 data collection period (Dec 16-22, 2020):

  1. COVID-19 cases were surging in most provinces and territories. The national COVID-19 case numbers in Canada as of December 16 were 481,630 (including 6,416 new cases).
    • British Columbia reported 640 new cases and a total of 11,035 active cases, with 12.6 new cases per 100,000 people.
    • Alberta had 1,270 new cases and a total of 20,169 active cases, with 29.1 new cases per 100,000 people. 
    • Saskatchewan reported 168 new cases and a total of 4,213 active cases, with 13.8 new cases per 100,00 people. 
    • Manitoba reported 291 new cases and a total of 5,797 active cases, with 21.2 new cases per 100,000 people. 
    • Ontario reported 2,139 new cases for a total of 17,084 active cases, with 14.7 new cases per 100,000 people. 
    • Quebec reported 1,897 new cases for a total of 17,084 active cases, with 22.4 new cases per 100,000 people.
    • NL, NB, NS, PEI, YT, NT and NU all reported zero or very low case numbers.
  2. Increasing case rates were being reported in many countries around the world, coupled with a return to modified lock-down measures in certain countries (e.g., Western Europe, UK).
  3. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine had been approved for use in Canada and initial vaccines had been administered. The Moderna vaccine was not yet approved for use in Canada but reports of its effectiveness had circulated widely.
  4. Widespread news coverage of the COVID-19 variant in the UK began during the data collection period (around Dec 19), and the Government halted passenger flights from the UK.

This page may refer to ‘respondents of the survey’ as ‘Canadians’, or other semantic generalizations. This is for readability only, and is not an endorsement or postulation that estimates should be extrapolated beyond the sample.


This report focuses on the results for the tenth wave of this research. 2,125 Canadians aged 18 and older were surveyed between December 16 to 22, 2020. The data was weighted to ensure that the sample distribution reflects the actual Canadian adult population according to Statistics Canada census data. There is no associated margin of error for the results, since a non-probability design means that results cannot be projected to the larger population.


Public Risk Perceptions

Significantly more respondents indicated “we are currently experiencing the worst of the crisis” in Waves 9 and 10 compared to rates from Waves 5 to 8. Respondents aged 55+ are more likely to think that “the worst is yet to come” (40%), compared to those aged 18-34 (24%).

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Information Sources

Trust in government information sources were at the highest levels early on in the pandemic. Trust levels gradually declined thereafter, but have remained relatively stable since the summer months. There was a slight increase in trust in some information sources between Waves 9 and 10. Across time, respondents aged 55+ have consistently reported the highest levels of trust in most government sources and trust in government information sources has varied by province/territory. In Wave 10 PT breakdown, trust continues to be generally the highest in British Columbia and the Yukon.

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Compliance with Protective Behaviours

The Wave 10 survey included new questions related to pandemic fatigue. Adherence to key protective behaviours remains reportedly high, and many participants are not getting tired of having to wash their hands frequently, physical distancing or wearing a mask. However, most participants (80%) indicate they are getting tired or somewhat tired of having to avoid gathering with loved ones.

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Mental Health & Well-being

Wave 10 observed the highest number of respondents reporting feeling depressed (15%), lonely (16%) and anxious (17%) most or all of the time since tracking of these items began in Wave 3. Disaggregation of the data by age suggests the pandemic has been particularly difficult for respondents aged 18-34 with regard to mental health.

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Vaccine Confidence

The Wave 10 survey asked respondents about their intentions to vaccinate across several different measures to add nuance to our growing understanding of hesitancy and its drivers. Using a 7-point scale from ‘Strongly Disagree’ to ‘Strongly Agree’, respondents were asked whether they would get a safe vaccine if it becomes available and is recommended to them. 65% either agreed or strongly agreed that they would (rising slightly from 61% in Wave 9, but trending downward across waves over time).

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Returning to "Normal"

While the arrival of an approved COVID-19 vaccine was met with optimism in the media, most respondents do not anticipate that a return to normal is on the immediate horizon. When asked about the likelihood of re-engaging in behaviors that were normal pre-pandemic, only a minority of respondents think it is likely that they will go to a large indoor gathering (22%), fly on a plane (14%), or travel to the US (9%) in the next year. Additionally, only 19% of respondents agree or strongly agree that by summer 2021 they will be able to travel and socialize like they did before the COVID-19 pandemic (an additional 57% are unsure).

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Travel Intentions and Border Measures

A majority of respondents indicate that they would like to see both US restrictions (86%) and international restrictions (84%) remain in place for 1-6+ months. When respondents are asked to rate their level of comfort with increasing travel with certain countries there is low comfort overall. However, respondents are slightly more comfortable with increased travel from countries with fewer COVID-19 cases.

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Next steps

The Impact Canada Behavioural Science team will use a series of statistical analyses to look for patterns in the data, allowing us to answer questions like:

  • How do intentions to vaccinate change over time?
  • How do changes in trust in government information sources affect changes in intentions to vaccinate over time?
  • How do individual-level characteristics (e.g., gender, baseline knowledge or anxiety, infection status) affect changes in intentions to vaccinate over time?
  • How do interactions between gender and trust in government information sources affect changes in intentions to vaccinate over time?

Contact us

To learn more or explore working with us, please contact the Impact and Innovation Unit of the Privy Council Office.

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