The novel coronavirus pandemic has many Canadians reluctant to participate in many of their usual social activities, and Ipsos Global Affairs CEO Darrell Bricker says “Halloween is no exception.”
A new Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Global News found just 19 per cent of Canadians said they will be handing out Halloween candy this year, with many choosing to forego other holidays such as Christmas and birthdays altogether.
“One of the things that we see consistently in the polling is whenever anybody is going to be confronting a stranger, their fear goes up when it comes to dealing with COVID-19,” Bricker said.
“All of these things — random people knocking on your door, you don’t know who’s there, you don’t know really anything about them, they’re not part of your social circle — that automatically is going to raise fear, and that you can’t control completely the environment that people are going to be coming in is something else that probably is making people reluctant to participate in this process.”
A provincial breakdown of the poll’s findings showed 30 per cent of respondents in Atlantic Canada and 28 per cent in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba said they would be giving out candy on Halloween.
In British Columbia, the proportion fell to 20 per cent, with the smallest numbers in Ontario and Quebec, where just 16 per cent and 13 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they’ll be doling out Halloween candy.
Bricker pointed out that Canadians living in provinces that have more rural or smaller town populations where people are more spaced out, particularly in places like Atlantic Canada, would be more willing to participate in Halloween than more densely-populated provinces like Ontario or Quebec.
“Your own circumstances, the situation that you find yourself in, the community that you live in has a big impact on whether or not you’re going to participate,” he said.
But overall participation rates? Bricker said to “expect them to be pretty low this year.”
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“Most of us are not going to be pursuing Halloween this year the way that we’ve pursued it in the past,” he said.
In Canada, at least, Halloween appears to be cancelled for 49 per cent of respondents who said they were foregoing their holiday plans altogether, while 34 per cent said they would either “reduce or modify” their plans in order to better adhere to public health guidelines. Seventeen per cent of respondents said they would be celebrating the holiday normally.
The pandemic has also affected the number of parents willing to take their kids trick or treating this year, with just 23 per cent of Canadians surveyed responding they were willing to take the risk.
Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist with the University of Toronto, advised those still planning on handing out candy or trick or treating to “keep the candy in a relatively warm place for a day” prior to interacting with it, in a previous interview with Global News.
“The virus can technically survive on surfaces for a long time, but it is heat dependent. So if you’re worried, you could warm it up a tad,” he said.
“But the candy still isn’t going to be hugely risky. It comes from the store to a person who bought it and then it’s dumped into a bowl. There will likely be minimal touch overall.”
Other holidays are also taking the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. The poll found 26 per cent of Canadians reported they were cancelling their holiday plans, including those who celebrated Christmas while 57 per cent would be celebrating modified versions of the holidays, in accordance with public health rules.
Leading the pack are Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where 44 per cent of respondents said they planned on celebrating with family outside of their immediate household, dropping to 43 per cent in Alberta and 41 per cent across Atlantic Canada provinces.
“Those in Ontario (33 per cent), British Columbia (32 per cent), or Quebec (23 per cent) are much less inclined to be getting together with family from outside their household over the holidays,” the Ipsos factum read.
And while a majority of Canadians surveyed — 52 per cent — said they would still have modified versions of their birthday celebrations, 31 per cent opted to cancel completely and 16 per cent said they were planning on celebrating as usual.
According to Bricker, the survey data is a good marker of the degree in which Canadians are listening to public health officials.
“People are very afraid of the situation that they find themselves in right now. And they’re looking for the best advice, which they believe comes from their public officials on how to deal with this,” he said.
“As long as public officials are saying things are going to be difficult or unsafe, the public’s listening. This includes everything from trick or treating through to wearing masks.”
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between October 23-26, 2020, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
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