How Much Do Consumers Really Know About COVID-19?

By: Jackie Lorch
Vice President of Global Knowledge Management


In a special edition of Dynata’s Global Trends Report we’ve been exploring the changes in consumer attitudes and behaviors brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. Here are some of the findings we gathered last week across 14 countries (the U.S., Canada, the UK, Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, India, Singapore, China, Japan and Australia) at various stages of the pandemic.

In this installment, we looked at how confident consumers are knowing how to protect themselves during the COVID-19 outbreak, if they would know what to do in the event they did get sick, and if they have an understanding of what the illness is.

With a pandemic of this nature – expected to affect large proportions of the populace and straining healthcare services – getting the right information out and understood by the population is vital. While many people may only experience a relatively mild illness, in some cases the effects could be extremely severe cases leading to many deaths. These uncertain times mean we all need to know what to look for, what to do and how to prepare ourselves.

Three quarters of Chinese and Italians in our survey, the countries most affected by the pandemic to date, agreed that they knew everything they needed to know about how to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19. Other similarly well-informed countries include Spain, Germany, Ireland and Singapore.

The least well-informed nation is the USA, followed closely by Australia. There, fewer than six in ten agreed. On these scaled measures it can be hard to gauge the relative position of India and Japan since cultural factors come into play (see “Understanding Scale Usage Across Cultures”). Japan has the highest reported level of being not well informed, almost certainly due to cultural modesty and an avoidance of the most positive response. They also have the highest level of “strongly disagreeing” that they know what to do, so they probably do feel uninformed. India, with a tendency to over-index, is probably not as well informed as they look based on the raw data (see “NOTE” below).

In the event a person did contract the virus, seven in ten agree they know exactly what they should do. Italy, Spain and China are again highest (understandably so) along with Ireland. The USA is, again, noticeably lower, at just under two-thirds.

Younger people are less well informed about what they should do. Under two-thirds of 16-24-year-olds agree they know what to do, compared to three-quarters of the over-55s. Young people were similarly less well informed about the nature of the illness itself. Just over six in ten 16-24-year-olds agreed that they had a good understanding of what sort of illness it would be, ten percentage points lower than the over-55s. On this dimension we observe a different set of inter-country differences. The USA, for example, has 73% agreement – slightly more than in China – and is amongst the best-informed countries. France is marked by a very low level of agreement, just under a half, lower even than Japan that is culturally under-indexing.

NOTE: Understanding Scale Usage Across Cultures
That different cultures tend towards different levels of acquiescent and extreme response styles on scales is well known. It is obvious from observing our data that the Japanese are modest in nature and tend not to select the most positive response, either when talking about themselves or regarding others. India, on the other hand, and China to a slightly lesser degree, tend towards acquiescence and extreme positive response. Other countries in the study undoubtedly have a cultural bias, but to a lesser degree from the average. Thus, interpretation of the data, particularly on these three countries, needs to be more nuanced than simply comparing the raw numbers.

Click here to download Dynata’s Global Trends Report Special Edition: COVID-19