Social polarization and behavioral intentions during the COVID‑19 pandemic: A multi-site study of risk and protective factors in Canadian youth

Rousseau, Cecile | $240,975

Quebec McGill University 2021 CIHR Project Grant

The COVID‑19 pandemic accentuates social inequalities and exacerbates social polarization, fueling support for diverse forms of violent radicalization, including hate speech and crime. In turn, social polarization promotes reservation and opposition towards public health best practices and guidelines related to COVID-19, including social distancing, wearing masks, and receptiveness to future vaccines. There is an urgent need to bridge expertise in the fields of social polarization, violent radicalization and COVID‑19 to inform preventive action at the local and national level that reduces violence and increases behavioral intentions to engage in COVID‑19 prevention efforts during the present health emergency. A socio-ecological framework that emphasizes the importance of multiple levels of risk and protective factors is needed to understand and respond to these public health issues, Research aims include: 1) Identify risk and protective factors associated with attitudes towards violent radicalization and COVID‑19 behavioral intentions among Canadian young adults, and 2) Explore city and provincial-level variations related to these social phenomena. College and university students in nine cities in three provinces (Quebec, Ontario and Alberta) will participate in an online survey on social polarization, violent radicalization and COVID‑19 in 2021. Results will inform public health communication strategies to promote engagement in public health measures such as uptake of a vaccine and decrease support for violent radicalization. In addition, results will be used to design and implement intervention programs in the education and health sectors that respond to local and regional socio-cultural dynamics related to violent radicalization and COVID-19, informing institutional and policy decision makers during and in the aftermath of the pandemic.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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