The COVID-19 pandemic forced many Canadians to change several aspects of their daily lives, and as a by-product, their news consumption habits and the sources of information they deem most reliable.

According to a new survey by Kaiser & Partners, the majority of Canadians (57%) increased their consumption of news media throughout the pandemic and have turned to more traditional sources of information.

One-third of respondents said they read more online news from established media (31%), while newscasts made a comeback with 27% of Canadians tuning in.

With misinformation spreading like wildfire, getting your hands on trustworthy and credible information has become more important than ever.

According to the survey, Canadians place the most trust and credibility in established news media sources, with these being deemed the most credible sources of information by 60% of respondents.

More credible, but also consumed more than before the pandemic, these results bode well for an industry that is challenged with reporting on and defending the accuracy and biases of its content.

“I’m relieved to see that Canadians continue to place their trust in the fact-based reporting that newsrooms across our country work so hard to deliver,” said Janine Allen, president of Kaiser & Partners. “The survey results crystallize my own conviction that those of us in the public relations industry have a shared responsibility to ensure that only complete and true information is shared—whether we are working with the media, sharing content online, or through other communication channels.”

Government information, public health agency content and social media have been deemed less reliable than traditional news media

As a result of the pandemic, Canadians have been exposed to a slew of new information, as well as more content and messages from various levels of government and public health agencies.

According to the Kaiser & Partners survey, these two information sources lag behind traditional news sources as reliable sources of information.

Just under half of Canadians (48%) said that government information was credible, while just over half (57%) said the same about public health agency content.

While social media, a popular source of information, saw a rise in consumption during this time, it is still largely not viewed as a credible source.

The survey findings revealed that one quarter (27%) of Canadians believe that experts’ social media platforms are credible sources of information, while only 8% said the same about social media in general.

The remaining 5% consider online platforms such as Reddit, Quora and discussion groups as reliable sources of information.

Changes in media consumption and what constitutes a credible source vary by province and demographic

From a regional point of view, Ontario had the highest number of people return to online news from established news media (36%), followed by Alberta (34%) and British Columbia (31%).

The survey also found that Canadians increasingly sought out more balanced news from other news sources since the beginning of the pandemic, including social media (27%), podcasts (13%), radio (13%), blogs (5%) and print newspapers (4%).

Ontarians changed their news media consumption habits the most (62%) compared to those in Atlantic Canada (47%).

Ontarians similarly turned to social media for their news more than other provinces (32%), while those in Québec had the highest return to broadcast TV news (31%).

When it comes to credibility, respondents in British Columbia (65%), Ontario (64%) and Québec (60%) said that news media was the most credible, compared to Atlantic Canada (57%), Alberta (49%) and Saskatchewan/Manitoba (48%).

Public health agency information was the least likely to be trusted by those in Québec (51%), but the most likely to be trusted by those in Ontario (60%) and British Columbia (64%).

Similarly, only one-third of Albertans (33%) said that information released by the government was reliable compared to half of those in British Columbia (53%).

From a linguistic and cultural point of view, anglophone Canadians were more inclined to increase their consumption of online news from established news media (33%) compared to francophone Canadians (21%). The opposite is true for broadcast TV, with more francophone Canadians returning to this channel (32%) compared to anglophone Canadians (26%).

Differences were also apparent by gender. In general, more respondents who identified as women changed their news consumption habits (60%) compared to their male peers (54%) and were similarly more inclined to deem established news media credible compared to men (63% and 56%, respectively).

Women also placed more credibility in public health agencies and government information (62% and 53%) compared to men (52% and 42%), while men deemed online content from industry experts more credible (16% compared to 11% of women).

In terms of age, Canadians over the age of 55 were the most inclined to have changed their consumption habits (60%) compared to those 18-34 (58%) and 35-54 (53%).

Not surprisingly, this age range also deemed established news media (65%) the most credible compared to those 18-34 (59%) and 35-54 (54%).

Public health agency content and government information were also the most trusted by those 55+ (61% and 51%, respectively) compared to those 18-34 (59% and 53%) and 35-54 (52% and 41%).

Methodology:

This online survey of 1,500 Canadians was completed between October 21 and 23, 2020, using Angus Reid’s online panel. The margin of error for this study was +/- 2.53%.

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