As COVID-19 has become a part of our everyday life, Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s second Arts Speaker Series of this year focused on the moral and political attitudes around social distancing requirements and vaccination against the virus.
KPU political science instructor Valérie Vézina and psychology instructor Hammond Tarry discussed the inspiration behind their research, the results of a survey they conducted, and how they went about it.
Before working on the project, Vézina says Tarry was curious if moral and political attitudes influenced people’s beliefs and behaviours around COVID-19 protocols during an Arts Speaker talk last year, and he wanted to collaborate with someone in the political science department.
“We were in the middle of the pandemic, and I was reading studies about polarization … and I was like, ‘Hammond, we should do something about this,’” Vézina says. “I usually don’t research this stuff. This is really out of my comfort zone, which has been great.”
After collaborating, they also had KPU students Leah Lopes and Jacob Bailey help with the project. Vézina says that when she began her research, she saw similar studies done in the United States and Europe but none of them correlated with political beliefs or were based in Canada, which made it more important to do the project.
The survey was posted on forum websites such as the Social Psychology Network and Reddit SampleSize from April to June of last year and had 209 people participate from the United States and Canada.
Respondents were asked to self-identify by their age, ethnicity, highest education level, if they tested positive for COVID-19 before, and more. They were asked on a seven and five-point scale system on which political party they identify with, their moral values such as fairness and loyalty, how they felt about social distancing and how much people followed those measures. They were also asked how they felt about the government’s response to COVID-19 and the prioritization of health versus the economy.
Vézina and Tarry found that people who leaned more on the right felt less positively about social distancing and prioritized the economy more than health. On the other hand, people who leaned more towards the left felt more positive with social distancing requirements and prioritization of health.
“We’re not very surprised, actually,” says Vézina. “One thing that I found surprising was that the people more on the political right, tend to be convinced by a greater set of moral values than the people on the left.”
However, Vézina says there were limitations with the study as more people who leaned towards the left responded to the survey. After completing the project, she says it’s important for people to understand this information to have respectful conversations about other perspectives and have different outlooks on issues.
“For us, it was really important to see that we can bridge those arguments and ways to see things can target both,” Vézina says.
She hopes that the study results will create discussions between people of different political opinions and be more empathetic towards others.
“We really want to show that once you’ve mutually understood each other, and which kind of values are important for people with different political orientations, you can be more empathetic to others,” Vézina adds.
Now that the study is over, Vézina and Tarry are working on another project focusing on how KPU students feel how their relationship with the university has changed due to the pandemic. Students who are interested in participating can register at Qualtrics Survey.