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BC Election: BC NDP leads by 10; Dix and Clark near even in personal popularity

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Do opinion polls have value?

Methodology under fire as election predictions have been wildly off in past
APRIL 9, 2015
EDMONTON – With the provincial election campaign underway, public opinion polls are already surfacing — and with them, concerns about their methodology, accuracy and value to the public after they failed miserably in previous votes.

Three years ago, not one poll available to the public accurately predicted the Progressive Conservatives would surge past the front-running Wildrose. The next year, in B.C., 10 polling companies failed to forecast the Liberal win over the NDP.

So, what can be done? Are accurate polls a thing of the past, relegated to a time when everyone had a land line and answered their calls?

“There’s no excuse I think for what happened in Alberta and British Columbia. That’s not even close to accurate, so there was something we need to learn about,” said Abacus Data CEO David Coletto.

“But even in more recent provincial elections in Ontario and Quebec, where the polls generally did OK, the assumption is always that we have to be dead on accurate. Polls can’t always do that. If they do, it’s more luck than anything. They’re meant to be snapshots. There is error built into it.”

Still, there is a huge divide in methodology, and for the public, that’s not always readily apparently when political parties are waving various numbers around.

On Wednesday, for example, the Wildrose was pointing to a Think HQ poll that found their party, the PCs and the NDP in a dead heat; another poll from Mainstreet Technologies released Thursday is showing a similarly tight race. They follow on the heels of two polls last week, one by Mainstreet and the other by Insights West, that also both found the Wildrose and PCs were neck and neck.

The Insights West and Think HQ polls were from online panels; the Mainstreet Technologies ones were Interactive Voice Response polls — often dubbed “demon diallers” — which are automated phone calls.

Calgary-based pollster and pundit Janet Brown laments the proliferation of such online panel surveys and IVR polls, which she considers “cheap and fast methodologies” that skew toward people motivated by anger.

“The political parties are paying to have polling done right and the media is looking for free polling — and the media get what they pay for,” Brown says, referring to the trend for the online and IVR pollsters to provide their results to media organizations for free.

She stresses the need for properly constructed and administered live telephone polls, which are more costly to do.

Yet in the 2012 election all manner of polls conducted within a week of the April 23 vote were wrong. Theirs was a majority of error, not a margin.

Live telephone polls by Return on Insight and Leger Marketing conducted between April 13 and 16, 2012, hinted at a narrowing race but gave Wildrose the nod, as did IVR polls by Forum Research on April 22 and Abacus Data on April 18-19, and an online poll conducted April 17-18 by ThinkHQ.

So if every method of polling returned similar results in 2012, are they all faulty?

“There is no silver bullet,” said Return on Insight president Bruce Cameron. “There is no single methodology that works all the time.”

Adds Ian Large, Leger Marketing vice-president for Alberta: “What we learned in 2012 in Alberta is more about politics and less about polling. … Campaigns really matter and it’s possible to blow it at the last minute.”

Election day surprises are never good for companies whose business is to know the results beforehand, plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20, of course. The Alberta and B.C. whiffs were part of a bad run as polling companies also fared poorly in the 2011 Ontario election.

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But the industry is most certainly in a state of flux.

One-third of Canadians no longer have land lines and caller-ID means many others won’t answer unfamiliar calls on their cellphones or land lines. That means it takes longer to do a poll, which drives live survey costs higher and making it less likely media organizations will shell out the $10,000-$20,0000 needed to partner with a major polling firm.

“I would imagine in the next couple of years there will not be telephone surveys being done and instead we’re going to be looking for new ways to collect data online,” said Coletto, who has used IVR in the past, but will not do so again. “One of the more recent methodologies would be to randomly pull people off websites.”

Cameron believes the future lies in a hybrid methodology combining live telephone delivery and online recruitment of respondents that approaches the randomness of a phone sample. He said those hybrids are under development in Canada.

Keep reading…

The Best Rewards Programs in Canada According to Millennials – Loyalty Redefined by Canadian Retailers The Best Rewards Programs in Canada According to Millennials – Loyalty Redefined by Canadian Retailers

This article is Part 2 of my series titled “Loyalty Redefined by Canadian Retailers”. If you haven’t already, discover The Top 10 Rewards Programs in Canada in Part 1 of this series! Please keep an eye out for more insights about your favourite Canadian rewards programs in the coming weeks!Not particularly related to Canada or the Canadians alone, but, if you are eager I can suggest you one another rewarding scheme that is open to everyone in this world! No, it is not about collecting points but about collecting or investing in the cryptocurrencies and to learn more, see here now!

Based on a recent Abacus Data poll of Canadians, we discovered what rewards programs were actively being used by Canadians to collect points. Now we will explore the top reward programs among Canadian Millennials, how these results compare to those of other generations, and what it means for a few longstanding loyalty leaders in Canada.

Here are the top 10 reward programs among Canadian Millennials (ages 18-32):

QUESTION: Which of the following reward programs have you used in the past 3 months to collect points?

Shoppers Optimum (36%)
Scene (24%)
Plum Rewards (18%)
Hudson’s Bay Rewards (14%)
Canadian Tire Rewards (14%)
Aeroplan (13%)
Club Sobeys (11%)
PC Points/Plus (9%)
When compared to the national general population findings from the survey, many of the top programs remain in the top 10, but that is where the similarities end. Here is a table comparing the top 10 rewards programs among all Canadians beside a list of the top 10 rewards programs among Canadian Millennials so that you can see for yourself:

All Canadians Canadian Millennials
2. Shoppers Optimum 2. Shoppers Optimum
3. Canadian Tire Rewards 3. Scene
4. Aeroplan 4. Plum Rewards
5. Hudson’s Bay Rewards 5. Hudson’s Bay Rewards
6. PETRO-POINTS 6. Canadian Tire Rewards
7. Scene 7. PETRO-POINTS
8. Club Sobeys 8. Aeroplan
9. CAA 9. Club Sobeys
10. PC Points/Plus 10. PC Points/Plus

According to the Abacus Data survey, about one-quarter of Canadian Millennials (24%) have not collected points from any rewards program in the past 3 months, compared to only 1 in 10 among the older generations (9%). This finding provides both the insight that there should be ample opportunity for rewards programs to obtain new loyal members from the young generation, but that also there may be an issue with program relevance among Millennials.

The issue of program relevance becomes much more clear when we explore which generations are significantly more likely to be active collectors of each rewards program. Millennials are the least likely among Canadian generations to be active collectors within the following eight rewards programs:

AIR MILES (40% compared to 66% of the older generations)
Canadian Tire Rewards (14% compared to 26% of the older generations)
Aeroplan (13% compared to 23% of the older generations)
Hudson’s Bay Rewards (14% compared to 21% of the older generations)
PETRO-POINTS (13% compared to 20% of the older generations)
Sears Card (3% compared to 12% of the older generations)
metro&moi (4% compared to 10% of the older generations)
American Express Rewards (2% compared to 9% of the older generations)
That being said, Millennials are the most likely among Canadian generations to be active collectors within the following two rewards programs:

Scene (24% compared to 11% of the older generations)
Plum Rewards (18% compared to 9% of the older generations)
What does this tell us about some of Canada’s longstanding leaders in loyalty rewards? It’s time to make big changes.

You must rapidly adapt your rewards program for the Millennial generation, or risk losing this powerhouse generation to your newer and more adaptive competitors.

Here are a few first steps that I would recommend to every CEO, CFO, CMO and every other C-level involved in an established Canadian rewards program:

Review your program’s value proposition – Is it as clear and simple as possible?
Review your program’s flexibility – Are you offering the most convenient ways possible to earn and redeem?
Review your program’s marketing & communications teams – Are your core values understood and are they consistently communicated?
Over the next few weeks I will start to uncover some of the leaps and strides that these big rewards programs having been making in order to try to garner more attention from Canadian consumers. I will also provide some insight into why some of these changes will work and why some programs may not be doing enough.

About the Abacus Data Canadian Rewards Program Poll:

Abacus Data ( conducted an online omnibus survey of Candians ages 18 and older. The total sample was weighted by age, gender and region to be proportionately representative of the Canadian population of adults. Responses were collected between May 21 – 25, 2013 (n=2,465). For more information on this poll or other consumer research polls, please contact SeanCopeland, Director of Consumer Research at or 647-269-5085.


According to a new national survey conducted from January 14 to 18, 2014 by public opinion firm Abacus Data, more Canadians describe the state of the Canadian economy as poor than they did in October 2013.  When asked how the three main federal political parties would do in managing Canada’s economy a majority of Canadians believed that all three would do at least an acceptable job with the Liberals having a slight advantage over the NDP and the Conservative s.

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Perceptions about the Canadian Economy

Perceptions about Canada’s economy have softened since late October 2013.  Overall, 59% of Canadians describe the current state of Canada’s economy as very good (2%) or good (56%), down 9-points since October.  Forty-two percent, in contrast, describe Canada’s economy as either very poor (5%) or poor (37%), up 9-points since October.


When asked about the future performance of the Canadian economy in the next six months, 23% of respondents believe things will get better while 19% think things will get worse while the majority (59%) of Canadians believe things will stay pretty much the same as they have been.

Of note, those who rate the current economy as good are also more likely to believe things will improve in the next six months while those with a more negative assessment of the current economy are more likely to think things will get worse.  Only 11% of those who rate the economy as poor/very poor believe things will improve in the next six months.


Expected Performance on Managing the Economy

Respondents were also asked to rate how well they believed each party and leader would do at managing Canada’s economy.  While none of the three parties scored particularly well, none of them were perceived to do a poor or very poor job by a majority of respondents.

One in four respondents (24%) said that Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party would do an excellent or good job compared with 21% for Tom Mulcair and 27% for Justin Trudeau.

The difference between perception of the three leaders was most pronounced in the polarization of opinions towards the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party.  In contrast to the Liberals and NDP, respondents were more likely to perceive Harper and the Conservatives as doing a poor or very job managing the economy (40%).


On the surface, the results suggest almost a stalemate between the three parties, with no one party having a significant advantage on the “managing the economy file.”  The data does show that the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party are perceived somewhat less favourably on the economy but most of those negative feelings come from Canadians who tell us they would not consider voting Conservative.

One of the things we are going to start doing in our political analysis (when the sample size allows us to) is to break the electorate up into seven distinct groups based on an individual voter’s proclivity to consider one or more of the three main political parties for their vote choice.

Early in our survey, we asked respondents whether they would consider voting for each of the three main political parties (Conservative, Liberal, and NDP) and based on the response to the three questions we created distinct voter groups.  These groups include those that would only consider voting Liberal, Conservative, or NDP, would consider voting for two of the main parties but not the third, those that would consider voting for all three main parties, and those that would not consider voting for any of the main parties.  We will also conduct a similar analysis within Quebec in the future.

In future posts on our website, we will profile each group in more detail, but for now, we think that Canadian politics and the behaviour of political leaders and the parties makes more sense if you view the political world in this way.

The next election will not be fought on a single battleground.

We think there are two broader groups to consider and small groups within each.

First, are those voters who would only consider voting for one political party.  These voters represent the base for each party and what matters here from a vote performance perspective is their motivation to vote and the size of the group.

The second broad group represents voters who would consider voting for more than one political parties.  They include (1) those who would consider all three parties (truly swing voters), (2) those who would only consider LPC or NDP (progressive non-partisans), (3) those who would only consider LPC or CPC (conservative non-partisans), and (4) those who would only consider the NDP or CPC (populists).


When we assess perceptions about the ability of each party to manage the economy by these voter groups we find expected patterns.  Among those who would consider voting for all three parties, at least 72% believe that each party would do at least an acceptable  job managing the economy with the Liberals somewhat higher than the Tories and NDP.

Among the Conservative non-partisan group, the Conservatives and Liberals are perceived to be at least acceptable managers of the economy by at least 80% of respondents.  The NDP’s numbers are significantly weaker.  In fact, among Conservative non-partisan voters, only 5% believe the NDP would do an excellent or good job managing the economy.

Among those who would only consider voting NDP or Liberal (we call them progressive non-partisans), both the NDP and Liberals get good scores from almost all respondents.  The Conservatives, on the other hand, are less likely to be viewed as an acceptable economic manager to voters in this group.  In fact, only 9% of Progressive non-partisan voters consider the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party to be an excellent or good economic manager.

The final column in the table below reports results among those who said they would only consider voting for the Conservative Party.  Among the core base of the Conservative Party, 94% think that the Conservatives would do at least an acceptable job managing the economy while very few consider Mulcair or Trudeau to be acceptable economic managers.


The point of this exercise is to first demonstrate that voters can view multiple parties and party leaders as acceptable or even good economic managers.  This has consequences for the role these opinions can play in affecting voter intention.  If voters, for example, in the Progressive non-partisan group view both Trudeau and Mulcair as equally able to manage the economy, then vote choice may come down to another factor such as leadership attributes, candidate selection, or another prominent issue.

Second, by looking at the electorate not as a single uniform group but as one made up of different groups of voters with different intentions and preferences, it becomes clear that just because more people view Stephen Harper and the Conservatives as poor economic managers than the other parties does not mean they cannot be re-elected in 2015.  However, the results demonstrate that they will need to work hard to convert almost all those who would consider voting Conservative to actually vote Conservative – especially when 12% of the electorate is open to voting either Conservative or Liberal.

Impact of Party Leader becoming Prime Minister after Next Election on the Economy

We also asked respondents to consider what effect electing each of the three leaders Prime Minister would have on the Canadian economy.  Similar to results to the earlier question, more respondents believed that the economy would likely weaken if Stephen Harper is re-elected as Prime Minister after the next election.  A third of respondents believed the economy would weaken while 17% believed it would improve.  Another 35% thought it would have no effect while 15% were not sure what the effect would be.

Tom Mulcair’s ratings were also more negative than positive (improve 18%, weaken 28%) but there was a much higher percent of respondents who said they were not sure what the effect of “Prime Minister Mulcair” would be on the economy.

Finally, respondents were more favourable to the impact of electing Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister on the economy, not surprising considering the Liberal Party’s current lead in vote intention.  One in four respondents believed things would improve under a Trudeau government compared to 25% who thought the economy would weaken.  Twenty-five percent were not sure what would happen.


And once again, the devil is in the details.  When we break out perceptions across the four voter groups mentioned earlier, we find very substantial differences.  After computing a “net improvement score” by subtracting the percentage of respondents who said the economy would weaken from the percentage who said it would improve, we find expected patterns across the voting groups.

Among the pure swing voters (those that would consider all three parties), Trudeau’s impact on the economy if elected PM was most positive (+16) with Mulcair (-2) and Harper (-12) trailing.  Among conservative non-partisan voters, Harper’s score (+11) is slightly higher than Trudeau’s (+2) while Mulcair is well back with a net improvement score of -50.  Among those who would only consider voting for the NDP and Liberals, Trudeau (+39) has a sizeable lead over Mulcair (+18) with Harper well back at -47.  Finally, among those who would only consider voting Conservative, Harper get a high +55 while Mulcair and Trudeau’s scores were very negative (-61 and -64 respectively).


The differences between these voter groups give us some insight into the opportunities and threats for each of the main parties as they set their strategy in the lead up to the next election.

What it Means for the Conservatives

For Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, the results demonstrate that the Conservative base clearly distinguishes between what a Harper Government and a Trudeau or Mulcair Government means for the Canadian economy.  The contrast between the leaders is stark and clear.  The objective for the Conservatives is to grow the gap between Harper and Trudeau on economic competence among non-partisan conservative voters and among those voters who say they would consider voting for all three parties.  For the Tories to win in 2015, they would need to turnout their base in high numbers (13% of the electorate), win at least 80% of the non-partisan conservative voters (12% of the electorate) and win at least 40% with voters open to voting for any of the three main parties (15% of the electorate).  At the same time, the Tories need to  avoid a situation where either the Liberals or the NDP are able to consolidate the progressive/anti-Conservative vote.

What it Means for the NDP

For Tom Mulcair and the NDP, the results in this study suggest that most Canadians do not consider the NDP as ineffective or incompetent economic managers.  This is a myth that does not hold in the evidence presented here.  However, Canadians don’t know what a federal NDP would perform having never experienced it.  So the unknown is still a liability.  The challenge for the NDP is positioning themselves as more competent on the economy than the Liberals while at the same time not scaring conservative non-partisan voters into the arms of the Trudeau Liberals.  It will be imperative for Mulcair to close the gap with Trudeau among progressive non-partisan voters which make up the largest voter group in the electorate at 22%.  If that is not possible, then the ballot question for the 2015 election will need to be something other than economic competence for voters in this group.  Right now, among these voters, Trudeau has a big advantage over Mulcair on economic competence which is helping to lift Liberal support far beyond the NDP.

What it Means for the Liberals

Finally, for Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, the results suggest that despite media elite-level questions about Trudeau’s competence or capabilities to be Prime Minister, the strength of the Liberal brand and the goodwill that many Canadians have for Mr. Trudeau seem to be leading the day.  However, this could change, especially in the heat of an election campaign when voters will be paying far more attention to the leaders and assessing their competence as economic managers.  But for now, the evidence suggests that after a year of attacks from the NDP and Conservatives, Trudeau’s personal brand has been resilient.  Right now, Trudeau has the advantage among Progressive non-partisan voters, among those who would consider voting for all three parties, and is not far behind Harper among those who would consider voting Liberal or Conservative.  All together this helps explain why the Liberals have a six-point lead nationally among committed voters.

Some Final Thoughts

The federal budget that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will release on February 11 comes at a time when voter confidence in the state of the Canadian economy is softening.  More Canadians still rate the current economy as good than poor, but the trend since October 2013 is not a favourable one for the Conservative government.

For a government that has staked so much of its reputation and future success on how Canadians perceive it as sound economic managers, declining confidence and weak prospective economic evaluations is a discouraging sign.

However, the Conservatives are still regarded as good or acceptable economic managers by a majority of Canadians.  The base still sees Harper as much better option than either Trudeau or Mulcair.  The challenge with the 2014 budget and other economic policy to follow is, on the one hand, to continue to assure Canadians (or those Canadians that are within the Conservative universe) that all will be well and on the other, that the opposition leaders are lesser managers and stewards of the economic and a risky proposition.


The survey was conducted online with 1,996 respondents in English and French using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a representative panel of Canadians.  The survey was completed from January 14 to 18, 2014.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.   The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels.

The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of 1,996 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. 

The data