Wave 11

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.

+ Learn more


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 11 data collection period (February 9-16, 2021):

  1. The national COVID-19 case numbers in Canada as of February 8 were 808,120 (the data before data collection began).
    • British Columbia reported 343 new cases; 65,605 cases have recovered, for a total of 4,088 (-1,815) active cases.
    • Alberta reported 269 new cases; 119,130 cases have recovered, for a total of 6,196 (-46) active cases.
    • Saskatchewan reported 171 new cases; 23,029 cases have recovered, for a total of 2,204 (-159) active cases.
    • Manitoba reported 52 new cases; 27,817 cases have recovered, for a total of 1,622 (-1,634) active cases.
    • Ontario reported 1,265 new cases; 258,603 cases have recovered, for a total of 14,331 (-468) active cases.
    • Quebec reported 853 new cases; 249,361 cases have recovered, for a total of 11,504 (-411) active cases.
    • NL, NB, NS, PEI, YT, NT and NU all reported zero or very low case numbers.
  2. During the Wave 11 data collection period (Feb 9-16), COVID-19 cases were declining in Canada and in other parts of the world. Despite declining cases, media coverage focused heavily on the new, more contagious COVID-19 variants and the potential of another resurgence.
  3. The Government of Canada announced stricter travel measures (January 29) prior to data collection, highlighting the risk of imported COVID-19 cases.
  4. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna vaccine had been approved for use in Canada and initial vaccines had been administered. Media coverage of other vaccine candidates, including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, was also circulating.
    • According to public sources, as of February 8 (the day before data collection began), PTs had administered 1,096,225 vaccine doses.


This report focuses on the results for the eleventh wave of this research. 2,037 Canadians aged 18 and older were surveyed between February 9 to 16, 2021. 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

The proportion of respondents who indicated that “the worst of the crisis is behind us” increased sharply between Waves 10 (10%) and 11 (25%), as the number of respondents who think we are “currently experiencing the worst of the crisis” and think that “the worst is behind us” declined. Respondents aged 18-34 are more likely to think that “the worst of the crisis is behind us” (37%), compared to other age groups (23% of respondents aged 35-54 and 18% of respondents 55+). Similarly, the proportion of respondents who think that COVID-19 feels like it is “spreading fast,” declined from 55% in Wave 10 to 42% in Wave 11.

+ View more

Information Sources

Trust in and use of government information sources was highest early on in the pandemic and has declined since. In Wave 11, use of and trust in government information sources about COVID-19 (e.g., federal public health leaders, daily press conferences) are at the lowest levels COSMO has observed since data collection began in April 2020. Respondents were given a series of true and false statements about COVID-19 and asked to indicate the extent to which they thought the statements were accurate. The results indicate that some respondents are susceptible to believing false information.

+ View more


Compliance with Protective Behaviours

The majority of COSMO respondents report always or almost always complying with most public health measures such as mask wearing (85%), frequent hand washing (71%, and physical distancing (75%). In Wave 11, respondents who reported adhering to public health measures were asked what their motivations were for practicing recommended behaviours.

+ View more

Mental Health & Well-being

Reported life satisfaction among respondents in Wave 11 was at the lowest point COSMO has observed since data collection began in April 2020. Just over a third of respondents (35%) are very satisfied/satisfied with their lives (down from 45% in Wave 1), while 24% are very dissatisfied/dissatisfied. In addition, high numbers of respondents continue to report feeling depressed (39%), lonely (39%) and anxious (45%) occasionally or most/all of the time.

+ View more

Vaccine Confidence

COSMO asks respondents about their intentions to vaccinate across several different measures to add nuance to our growing understanding of hesitancy and its drivers. Overall vaccine intentions increased in Wave 11 and more respondents indicate that they will get a vaccine as soon as it is available to them. At the time of data collection, 4% of respondents indicated that they had already received at least one dose of a vaccine. These respondents were excluded from the vaccine intentions questions.

+ View more

Returning to "Normal"

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 (13%), or travel to the US (10%) in the next year. Young respondents (18-34) are more likely to say that it is likely that they will engage in these behaviours in the next year, and older respondents (55+) report that they are less likely to do so.

+ View more

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.

+ View more

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.

Email us