Wave 9

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 9 data collection period (Nov 2-9, 2020):

  1. COVID-19 cases were surging in most provinces and territories. The national COVID-19 case numbers in Canada as of November 3 were 244,935 (including 2,974 new cases).
    • British Columbia reported 299 new cases and a total of 3,098 active cases, with 5.9 cases per 100,000 people.
    • Alberta had 570 new cases and a total of 6,110 active cases, with 13.0 cases per 100,000 people.
    • Saskatchewan reported 81 new cases and a total of 842 active cases, with 6.9 cases per 100,00 people.
    • Manitoba reported 102 new cases and a total of 3,495 active cases, with 7.4 cases per 100,000 people.
    • Ontario reported 1,050 new cases for a total of 8,295 active cases, with 7.2 cases per 100,000 people.
    • Quebec reported 871 new cases yesterday for a total of 9,256 active cases, with 10.3 cases per 100,000 people.
    • NL, NB, NS, PEI, YT, NT and NU all reported 0 new cases and 0 cases per 100,000 people (except NS - 0.1 per 100,000).
  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 US Presidential election was underway. Election day was November 3 and on November 7 Joe Biden became the President-Elect as reported by major US media outlets.
  4. On November 9 (the last day of COSMO data collection) Pfizer and Biontech announced that the first interim efficacy analysis of their phase 3 study found their vaccine to be over 90% effective. The announcement is not likely to have impacted the results of this Wave of data collection but Wave 10 data will likely reflect what impact, if any, this announcement and subsequent vaccine announcements (i.e. Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen) has had on vaccine intentions.

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 ninth wave of this research. 2,055 Canadians aged 18 and older were surveyed between November 2 to 9, 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

In Wave 9, there was a significant increase in the proportion of the sample who think that “we are currently experiencing the worst of the crisis,” and a sharp decline in the portion of people who think that the worst of the crisis is behind us. The highest proportion of respondents still think that “the worst of the crisis is yet to come”. Certain groups are more likely to think that “the worst is yet to come,” including those aged 55+ (54%), residents living in British Columbia and the Yukon (59%) and Alberta and the Northwest Territories (53%).

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Information Sources

Trust in government information sources has declined since the beginning of the pandemic. Respondents aged 18-34 have consistently reported lower levels of trust in most government sources. Trust in government information sources also varies by province/territory and is generally the highest in British Columbia and the Yukon, and the lowest in Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

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Compliance with Protective Behaviours

Adherence to key protective behaviours such as mask wearing (81%), using hand sanitizer (79%), frequent hand washing (72%) and physical distancing (71%) remains high. Men and younger respondents in the sample continue to indicate lower compliance with recommended protective behaviours.

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Despite public health guidance in some provinces and high numbers of people indicating they were aware of gathering limits in their area (89%), a high proportion of respondents report that they had indoor, in-person gatherings at Thanksgiving (42%). More Canadians will observe December holidays than Thanksgiving, and a sizable proportion may not heed public health advice to limit gatherings.

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Vaccine confidence

The Wave 9 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 recommended to them. 61% either agreed or strongly agreed that they would. This declined in Wave 9 after remaining stable at about 65% since Wave 4 (May 26-June 1).

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Returning to "Normal"

52% of respondents visited with friends and family indoors in the past two weeks, signalling that while most do not intend to gather in large groups many people are still seeing friends and family. Only 23% of respondents think that it is likely that they will go to an indoor gathering with ten or more people within the next year.

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Travel Intentions and Border Measures

A majority of respondents would like to see both US restrictions (86%) and international restrictions (83%) remain in place for 1-6+ months. There is low comfort overall with increasing travel, however, Canadians may be 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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