Despite questions about the World Health Organization’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly two-thirds of Canadians and over half of Americans still trust the UN health body, according to a new survey.
The survey conducted by the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) and the COVID-19 Social Impacts Network shows that 65 per cent of Canadians and 56 per cent of Americans trust the WHO despite a concerted campaign by the Trump administration to assign some of the blame for the way the pandemic unfolded to the UN body.
After repeatedly praising the Chinese response early on, U.S. President Donald Trump has blasted WHO in recent weeks for allegedly colluding with China to hide the extent of the coronavirus crisis.
He cut ties with the organization on Friday, jeopardizing the approximately $450 million the U.S. gives every year as WHO’s biggest single donor.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, has said that while he has “many questions” about the WHO’s handling of the initial information about the coronavirus coming out of China, he considers the world body “an important ally” in the global fight against the pandemic.
Jack Jedwab, president and CEO of ACS, said the poll shows the influence of partisan politics on attitudes towards the WHO and public health authorities in general.
“What’s particularly fascinating about the result of the survey in the two countries is the more you trust Justin Trudeau and the more you trust Theresa Tam, our chief medical officer, the more you trust the World Health Organization,” Jedwab told Radio Canada International in a phone interview.
“And in the United States, the more you trust the president, Donald Trump, the less you trust the World Health Organization.”
Underlying that is a very important debate about the role of global health authorities in these times of crises and pandemics, Jedwab said.
“In Canada and in the United States the extent to which you trusted public health authorities to give you accurate information or guidance on how to deal with COVID-19 was connected to your trust of the World Health Organization in a very direct way,” Jedwab said.
“There seemed to be a common thread running the gamut of trust whether it was a local health authority or a global health authority or a disease control centre that was giving you information.”
Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba had the greatest levels of trust towards the WHO, while Alberta had the lowest level at 54 per cent, the survey showed. Also, women and francophones were the most trusting of the WHO.
In the U.S., northeastern and western states had the greatest level of trust towards the UN health body, while the south of the country had the lowest levels of trust.