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The Power of Small Wins

Vanessa Eaton

How trust is varying across professionals in Canada, long white hallway with someone sitting at a desk at the end of it

Small wins, we need them now. Small wins signal progress, keep us motivated and remind us that there is light at points along this long, dark tunnel.

Everything now is framed by a single dominant issue: COVID-19. But we are making progress. Overall, when physical distancing rules are followed, new COVID-19 cases reduce. Governments are discussing plans on how to safely re-open more of our economy and some families are contemplating who they might ‘double bubble’ with. Together we have contributed to this changing tide.

We are also making gains in trust. The heroes in this trust story are health care professionals, scientists and researchers.


CanTrust Index research reveals trust is up in doctors and scientists 

In January, our CanTrust Index research found 76 per cent of Canadians trusted doctors, and 70 per cent trusted scientists. We repeated these questions in early May (through an online survey of 1,000 people) and saw trust in doctors shoot up to 87 per cent and trust in scientists to 82 per cent.

Scientists and researchers are racing to better understand this virus and how to treat it and eventually reduce our risk with vaccines. The whole world is counting on this group of professionals. Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals are selflessly walking into the heart of danger to care for Canadians and save lives. Many health care workers are remaining distanced from their loved ones for fear of bringing the illness home. Each day they are witnessing the virus’s impact, living in fear it might infect them too.


Our trust is changing as the pandemic evolves

Our May research showed governments have also benefited from a bump in confidence, with 40 per cent of those surveyed expressing trust in governments versus 33 per cent in January. As COVID-19 overtook our country, Canadians may have quickly realized how much we need to rely on government to get us through this crisis. Government collaboration and partnership with health care experts, scientists and researchers are key getting us through.

Small to medium sized businesses and non-profit organizations also saw increases in trust. On the other hand, trust in the media, CEOs and educators have lost trust.


Where trust is falling amid COVID-19

In January, the media was part of our trust come-back club with trust at 44 per cent, up from 40 per cent a year earlier. But in May, trust in media has unfortunately fallen a full 10 points to just 33 per cent, the lowest it’s been since we began our survey in 2016.

CEOs similarly saw trust fall to an all-time low of just 30 per cent, down from 38 per cent in January and 55 per cent two years ago. CEOs are in the difficult position of making hard and often unpopular decisions. Our research shows the more openly leaders communicate and live their values the bigger the impact on trust.

Educators remain among the more trusted in our society, at 59 per cent, but this is down from 65 per cent in January. Many parents, faced with schooling their kids at home, on top of other responsibilities, and with school systems not all well-equipped to support this transition, are feeling frustrated.


Trust in Canada is closely associated with Canadian identity 

Trust is associated with identity and our research shows a high sense of belonging and identification with Canada. This fact is one of the distinct underlying strengths of trust in Canada. I am counting this as a win too – especially if this serves us well as we work together to combat COVID-19.