Professor David Pettinicchio’s new co-authored article “Partisanship fuels what people with disabilities think about COVID-19 response” was featured in the National Post. Professor Pettinichio and Professor Michelle Maroto conducted a national survey of people with chronic health conditions and disabilities during the pandemic examining the added stress and isolation it has caused the marginalized group. Part of the survey asked their opinions on the governments handling of the pandemic and found that regional and partisan political beliefs were the driving force in their attitudes towards the government response. The assumption that the respondents would view the government’s response through the lens of their disabilities and health conditions because of the immense impact it has had on their lives was not the case.
David Pettinicchio is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto with teaching responsibilities at UTM. His research focuses on social policy, social movements, and political sociology. He has recently begun research on how policy responses to COVID-19 have shaped public perceptions of government and policy, and how people with disabilities and chronic health conditions are economically impacted by the pandemic.
Partisanship fuels what people with disabilities think about COVID-19 response
Authors: David Pettinicchio, Associate Professor, Sociology, University of Toronto and Michelle Maroto, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Alberta
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada was touted as fast-acting in curbing the spread of the coronavirus. In March 2020, the federal government restricted travel, initiated lockdowns and enacted a taxable income support program, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB.
Cross-partisan consensus among Canadian leaders facilitated these COVID-19 countermeasures. Compared to the United States, Canada’s pandemic response seemed rather apolitical.
Public opinion polls throughout 2020 showed that most Canadians held favourable views of the federal government’s response to the pandemic. People’s attitudes varied more when it came to their views of their province’s response. This makes sense since provincial governments differed in how they dealt with social distancing, lockdowns and reopenings. All in all, and in the broadest sense, Canadians felt confident in their leaders in 2020.
But not all Canadians have been affected equally by the pandemic or by policy responses to it.
People with chronic health conditions and disabilities are already a marginalized group that experiences significant employment and financial barriers, as well as obstacles to accessing social and health services. Due to increased social isolation, they also experience significant declines in mental health. These were made worse by the pandemic.
What are the views of members of this group about the federal government’s response to the pandemic and what does this tell us more generally about Canadians’ attitudes about government?
Political views shaped perceptions
In June 2020, we conducted a national survey of people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. We asked them questions about how they thought the government was handling the pandemic.
We found that while disability and health status may indirectly shape views of government, regional and partisan political beliefs were the most important predictors of attitudes.