June 21st, 2013 | 5 Comments
In the lead-up to the by-election call in out-going Liberal MP Bob Rae's Toronto Centre riding, an online pollster is taking soundings about Torontonians' views on federal politics, including numerous questions about the leadership of Justin Trudeau.
The survey was being administered last night by Probit, a subsidiary of Ekos Research, and is believed to be targetted to a Toronto audience because of the inclusion of CP24 as a possible source of news and information. CP24 is a Toronto-only all-news TV station owned by CTV. It could also be the case that preliminary screening questions were used to determine which news sources to display to the respondent, however.
It's also likely being conducted either for the Liberal Party or in support of more big-L Liberal interests, given the focus on Trudeau, "middle class Canadians", "keeping Canada a united country" and other constitutional questions in the Liberal frame, along with extensive testing of all possible negatives but only Liberal and a few Conservative positives, not to mention the very weak statements being tested on social programs, and the almost complete absence of any Conservative-focused themes about security, patriotism and so forth, or NDP-focused themes about, just to pick one example, the Senate.
The survey in particular wanted to know whether respondents believe Trudeau lacks toughness, substance, judgement, or experience, whether he is too young to be prime minister, doesn't represent my region, or whether he stands up for the middle class, represents the next generation of Canadians, and whether he has had to work hard to get where he is. They basically asked everything that could trip up the new leader, short of testing whether respondents thought he was "in over his head".
[Click on images to open full-sized versions; though I apologize for the poor quality, and will try and fix them up later]
It also questioned whether survey recipients really know what the Liberals stand for or believe in, whether they're ready to lead the country again, and whethey they (or Tom Mulcair and the NDP) could win the next election, along with asking whether the most important result of the next election is the defeat of the Harper Conservatives.
The survey was conducted online, in a series of web screens, and included certain demographic questions along with the questions listed below and shown in the attached video. Someone who received and completed the survey in Toronto did a screen grab of those screens and sent them to me in a document. I've removed the individual's answers and any other identifying marks before presenting them here, and in some cases presented portions of multiple screens on the same page to facilitate viewing. The first half of the deck is shown, up to and including the argument testing section, though I've transcribed the entire survey (except for demographic questions) below.
The following questions composed the body of the survey:
- Rating of the Leaders/Parties – Respondents were asked to "rate" the three main party leaders on a scale of 1 to 9, or "Don't Know". Notably Green Party leader Elizabeth May was not included. This was followed by a similar question asking them to "rate" the political parties.
- Re-election of the Government – It asks if they "think the Conservative government led by Stephen Harper should or should not be re-elected in the next election"
- Preferred government (3 forced comparisons) – Then it asks the respondent whether they prefer a Conservative government or a Liberal government; followed on the next pane by an NDP government or a Liberal government; followed finally by a choice between a Conservative or an NDP government.
- Trudeau impressions improved – "Over the past six months, have your impressions of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau greatly improved, somewhat improved, somewhat worsened or greatly worsened?" (or "Don't Know")
- Country right/wrong direction – It asks a "right direction/wrong direction" question about the country.
- Issue importance – Next it solicits a 1 to 9 rating (or "Don't Know") as to the importance of 19 "issues government could address", as follows:
- Creating jobs
- Protecting the environment
- Growing the economy
- Ensuring that all Canadians benefit from a growing economy
- Provision vision and direction for the country
- Helping more Canadians get post-secondary education
- Reducing wait times for health care services
- Providing financial security to middle class Canadians
- Keeping Canada a united country
- Providing a more ethical government
- An immigration policy that is about attracting good citizens, not just workers
- Attracting more foreign investment to develop our natural resources
- Helping people have an adequate income in retirement
- Making Canada a voice for peace and cooperation in the world
- Reducing personal taxes
- Reducing crime
- Providing greater access to child care
- Eliminating the federal government budget deficit
- Decriminalizing marijuana
- Ensuring that the benefits of economic growth are shared by all Canadians
- Ensuring women's rights, such as the right to choose, are protected
- Helping people reduce their personal debt, and
- Helping people deal with rising costs
- Feelings about Trudeau – A series of three further questions uses the following list of adjectives, and asks recipients, first, how many of them they would apply to how they feel about Justin Trudeau, then, which of them is the most positive thing they would say about their feelings towards Trudeau, and finally which is the most negative:
- Excited | Angry | Skeptical | Resentful | Committed opponent | Disinterested | Curious | Committed supporter | Hopeful | Interested | (added for the final two questions only:) Don't Know
- Leadership traits – A series of three tables asks how a set of traits applies to each of the three party leaders tested. Traits were presented in a different order for each leader (Mulcair, followed by Trudeau, and then Harper)
- Intelligent | Compassionate | Hard working | Likeable | Mean spirited | Tough | Is a strong representative of Canada internationally | Growing and learning | Honest and trustworthy | Ethical | Serious | Understands what matters to people like me | Competent | Team builder | Bully
- Argument testing – Next the survey asks respondents to answer Strongly agree | Somewhat agree | Somewhat disagree | Strongly disagree | or, Don't Know to a series of 21 statements, as follows:
- I feel I understand what Justin Trudeau is like
- Justin Trudeau lacks the toughness to be an effective Prime Minister
- It's time for a change in government
- I don't really know what the Liberals stand for or believe in
- The most important result of the next federal election must be the defeat of the Harper Conservatives
- Tom Mulcair and the NDP could win the next federal election
- Justin Trudeau is not experienced enough to be prime minister
- Justin Trudeau lacks substance
- Justin Trudeau and the Liberals could win the next federal election
- My ideal political party would be fiscally conservative and socially progressive
- Justin Trudeau lacks the judgement to be an effective Prime Minister
- I would be a little worried about the impact on the economy if the Conservatives lost the government
- Justin Trudeau is too young to be prime minister
- Justin Trudeau stands up for the middle class
- Justin Trudeau doesn't represent my region of the country
- The NDP can't be trusted with running the economy of Canada
- The NDP is too extreme to form a national government in Canada
- The Conservatives kept the economy running better than most other countries during the recession
- Justin Trudeau represents the next generation of Canadians
- Justin Trudeau has had to work hard to get where he is
- I think the Liberal Party is ready to lead the country again
- Policy positioning testing Five sets of policy "opposites" are then presented, and respondents are asked to situate themselves as having a "strong preference" for one side or another or somewhere in between, using a scale of 1 to 9 or "Don't Know", as follows:
- a government "more excited about the jobs created by energy development and pipelines" or one "more concerned about the environmental damage from energy development and pipelines"
- a government "with a style and character very similar to the harper government" or one with "a style and character very different from the Harper government"
- a government "that defended the current constitution" or one "that would make constitutional concessions to get the Quebec government's signature on the constitution"
- a government "with public policies very similar to the Harper government' or one with "public policies very different from the Harper government"
- for "preparing Canada for the challenges of the future", or a government "more focused on the problems of the present day"
- Government orientation – "Which of the following BEST describes the way the Government of Canada is currently operating?", followed by "And which way would you PREFER the Government of Canada to operate?"
- "Careful, steady-as-she-goes approach"
- "Bold new vision for the future of the country"
- Personal financial circumstances – "How would you say your PERSONAL financial or economic situation is compared to one year ago?" Much better | a little better | a little worse | Much worse
- Canadian economic circumstances – 'Which of the following do you think best describes the Canadian economy at the current time?", followed by "What are your expectations for the Canadian economy over the next 12 months?", and then "…over the next 5 years?". Strong growth | Moderate growth | Moderate decline | Strong decline | Don't Know
- Canadian prospects – "Overall, do you think life for the next generation of Canadians will be better or worse than life today?" Better than life today | Worse than life today | Same | Don't Know
- Personal financial position – "Which of the following describes your financial position?" Middle class | Working class | Well-off | Poor | Prefer not to say
- News sources – Respondents are asked to indicate how often (Regularly | Often | Occasionally | Never) they get their news from each of the following sources:
- Local daily newspaper (print)
- News radio (e.g., CBC Radio)
- National daily newspaper (online)
- Local daily newspaper (online)
- News magazines (e.g., Maclean's)
- Online sites for mainstream news media (e.g., cbc.ca)
- Canadian Press Newswire [ed. would most Canadians even know that's where it came from??]
- Online news aggregators (e.g. NationalNewsWatch.com)
- Online only newspapers (e.g., Huffington Post)
- National daily newspaper (print)
- Other online sources (specify:) _______________
- "Have you ever visited a political candidate's web site?"
- "Have you ever visited a web site or a Facebook page related to a cause, whether political or social?"
This is a lengthy baseline survey, clearly being done to scope out the party's SWOT terrain (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). As a next stage in a public opinion programme, one would typically do some focus group testing of various approaches to deal with those issues. It seems like the Liberals, or someone who is friendly to them, is trying to check if there was anything to those Conservative ads after all.