COVID-19 turns consumer culture upside down and society moving towards more compassion, kindness: Poll

43 per cent of respondents have new-found respect for workers in energy sector, because of their contribution to that essential service

CALGARY – Canada is set to emerge from the global coronavirus pandemic as a more caring, compassionate and giving society, suggests the results of a cross-country poll surveying Canadians about their changing attitudes amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The majority of the 800 respondents – 67 per cent – ranked the basics of life as now mattering most, indicates the poll, conducted between March 19 and 21st.

“People are appreciating the foundational necessities of life more than ever – the things that in the past, perhaps that they may have taken for granted,” said Dr. Mark Szabo, director of insights and engagement for Anstice, the marketing and research firm that commissioned the public opinion poll.

“They are valuing their health, their families, their work, their freedom of movement, and Canada’s public institutions,” he said.

“This has been a wake-up call. For quite a while now consumers have focused on deriving meaning from what they buy, but some of the fundamentals of what people find meaningful are shifting as we speak.”

Throughout the results, respondents repeatedly valued meaning over materialism, right down to their spending habits, which a majority expect will change in a post-COVID-19 world. When it comes to their expectations of brands they will continue to support, the highest-ranked qualities were how brands treat their own staff and how they help others live the values they share in common.

In addition to prioritizing the purchase of higher-quality products, respondents said they intend to be much more philanthropic in how they spend after the crisis, including giving to charities and random strangers. At the bottom of their priority spending list were fun, indulgent things for themselves and acquiring more material goods.

“There were some surprises in the findings,” said Sheenah Rogers-Pfeiffer, founder and chief strategist of Anstice. “These findings show that COVID-19 has turned the indulgent consumer culture of yesterday upside down and on its head. We appear to be moving into a far more compassionate and kinder society.”

Other takeaways of the results included messages for the energy sector, city planners, post-secondary educational institutions, utilities and employers.

Highlights include:

  • 43 per cent of respondents have a new-found respect for people working in the energy sector, because of their contribution to that essential service and the risks they take to do their job.
  • 50 per cent have a new-found appreciation for their utility providers, for similar reasons.
  • 66 per cent wanted city planners to know that people might not want to be too close together in public space anymore.
  • Employees like working from home and more than 50 per cent want employers to continue to give them this option in the future. Respondents said the biggest challenge they face working from home is the lack of basic human contact.
  • 52 per cent indicated that online education is viable in the long term. The results suggest post-secondary institutions will face challenges with students who do not have the required technology available, and from within their own ranks with educators not ready to make the jump.
  • 27 per cent indicated a renewed sense of religious faith. This was particularly true among Gen Z, those born between 1997 and 2012; 38 per cent also felt more altruistic towards strangers.

The online poll and has a confidence interval of 95 per cent and a margin of error of 3.47 per cent. Of the 800 respondents, 20 per cent were from Alberta, 25 per cent from B.C., and 40 per cent from Ontario. It should be noted that the sample under-represented Quebec.

-Bruce Mewett photo