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Public Opinion Survey Following the June 30, 2014 Federal By–elections

Executive Summary

On June 30th, 2014, By–elections were held in four federal electoral districts: Trinity—Spadina, Scarborough—Agincourt, Fort McMurray—Athabasca and Macleod. Both Trinity—Spadina and Scarborough—Agincourt are dense, urban and diverse ridings located in Toronto, Ontario. Fort McMurray—Athabasca is a mostly rural riding in Northeast Alberta. Macleod is a mostly rural riding in Southwest Alberta. Elections Canada commissioned The Strategic Counsel to conduct public opinion research with electors (eligible voters) in these ridings in the period following the By–elections. A telephone survey of a total of 1,600 electors was conducted between the dates of July 29th and August 19th (a total of 400 electors in each of the four electoral districts). Footnote 1

  1. Awareness of By–elections
    • Overall awareness of the federal By–elections was 92%.
    • Awareness levels were higher in Trinity—Spadina (97%) than in Scarborough—Agincourt (92%), Fort McMurray (89%) and Macleod (88%).
    • Newspapers (40%), TV (35%) and radio (35%) were the sources of information about the By–election most often cited by electors. However, the extent to which these three media were cited varied significantly between ridings. Newspapers were cited by approximately half (52%) of those in Macleod, versus approximately one-third of those in Scarborough—Agincourt (34%) and Fort McMurray (30%), and 44% of those in Trinity—Spadina. In Trinity—Spadina and Scarborough—Agincourt, TV was cited as a source of information by 50% and 45%, respectively, while significantly fewer mentioned TV in Fort McMurray (18%) and Macleod (25%). Radio, on the other hand, was most frequently cited in Fort McMurray, where 41% heard of the By–election from this source. Significantly fewer mentioned radio in Trinity—Spadina (34%), Macleod (29%) and Scarborough—Agincourt (24%).
    • Other frequently mentioned sources of information about the By–election included: candidate signs (21%), word of mouth (15%) and billboards, posters and other signage (7%).
  2. Information and Advertising
    • The most frequently cited source of information on voting procedures was the Voter Information Card (VIC) (58%). However, respondents in Fort McMurray were slightly less likely to mention the Voter Information Card (50%), than those in other ridings (Trinity—Spadina, 61%, Scarborough—Agincourt, 63%, and Macleod, 57%). Other notable sources included newspapers (14%) and the Elections Canada householder (12%).
    • Overall, 31% indicated that they saw an advertisement from Elections Canada. Voters were more likely than non-voters to recall seeing an advertisement (36% versus 24%). Those living in Fort McMurray were less likely than those living in other ridings to recall seeing an advertisement (24% versus 32%-35%).
    • Among those who noticed advertising, the primary sources were: newspapers (49%), radio (22%) and TV (20%). Given that Elections Canada does not use television advertising, suggesting recall error among those who mentioned it. Voters were more likely than non-voters to mention newspaper advertising (54% versus 38%), while non-voters were more likely to mention TV advertising (27% versus 17% of voters).
    • Those who noticed Elections Canada advertising were asked about its message. The most common mentions included: the election date (28%), proof of address requirement (21%) and a reminder to vote (20%). Other mentions garnering close to or more than 10% of responses included: advance polling dates (12%), polling station hours (9%), and instructions for how to vote (9%).
    • Elections Canada advertising for the June 30th federal By–elections included the slogan “Elections Canada, your source of voting information”. Overall, 18% recalled hearing or seeing this slogan. Notably, non–voters were slightly more likely than voters to recall the slogan (20% versus 16%).
  3. Voting in the By-elections
    • Sixty percent (60%) of those aware of the June 30th By–election reported having voted. Taking into account those who were not aware of the By–election, this translates to 55% of the total population.
    • Reported voter turn-out was highest in Trinity—Spadina, where 75% of the total population said they had voted, and Scarborough—Agincourt, where slightly less than two thirds (64%) said they had voted. Turn-out in Alberta’s ridings was significantly lower, with 43% reporting having voted in Fort McMurray, and 38% in Macleod.
    • A variety of reasons were given for not voting in the By–election. Out-of-town travel was the most commonly cited reason (29%), and was a particular issue among voters in Trinity—Spadina (42%). Reasons relating to the candidates (i.e. not wanting to vote for any of the candidates) were given by 14% of non-voters; this was mentioned most often in Scarborough—Agincourt (20%) and least often in Macleod (10%). Other reasons provided included: work (11%), lack of interest (11%), timing of the long weekend (10%) (By–elections were held on Monday, June 30th, which fell during Canada Day long weekend), too busy (9%), and forgetting (7%).
    • Lack of information about the voting process (e.g. when and where to go) was given as a reason by 9%, whereas registration problems were noted by 4%.
    • Main reasons for voting included: feeling it is a part of civic duty (40%), always voting (15%), and feeling it is important to participate in the political process (13%). Secondary reasons for voting were political, with 26% of voters providing a political reason: to support a political party (7%), to support a candidate (7%), to express their opinion (5%), to oppose a party (4%), to bring about change or better government (2%), or to oppose a candidate (1%).
  4. Likelihood of Voting Online
    • Among those aware of the By–election and who did not vote, almost two-thirds (65%) said that they would have voted if they would have been able to vote on the internet using the Elections Canada website.
  5. Voter Information
    • Electors were asked if they had received a personally-addressed voter information card (VIC) telling them where and when to vote. Overall, about eight in ten (82%) indicated having received a card.
    • Recall of having received a VIC appeared to increase with age (74% of electors ages 18-34 indicated receiving a card, compared to 91% of those 65+ years of age).
    • Electors who received a voter information card were asked if their name and address were correct on the information card received. Overall, 97% indicated that their name was correct and 98% indicated that their address was correct. Electors in Fort McMurray were less likely to indicate that their address was correct on the card they received (94%).
    • Electors who received a voter information card were asked to recall, on an unaided basis, the type of information provided on the card – over and above the information provided about where and when to vote. Respondents clearly found it difficult to recall seeing additional information on the card. Overall, more than one in five (22%) provided a “don’t know” response or no answer to this question. Those in Scarborough—Agincourt were somewhat less likely to respond in this fashion (18%). Furthermore, more than one-quarter (28 %) of electors provided a response of “none” to this question, indicating that they did not recall seeing any additional information on their card.
    • Aside from information about where and when to vote, electors most recalled seeing information on the card about advance polls (mentioned by 20% of respondents).
  6. Voter Experience
    • Overall, the vast majority of respondents (71 percent) voted at the polling station on election day (June 30th). Compared to the overall average, voters from Trinity—Spadina were less slightly likely (63%), and those from the Fort McMurray riding were slightly more likely (80%) to use this voting option. One-quarter of total voters (25%) did so at the advance polling station. Advance polls were most widely used in Trinity—Spadina, and least in Fort McMurray riding. Only 2% or fewer of respondents used some other method to vote.
    • Almost all respondents indicated that casting their vote at the polling station on election day was easy (97%). About nine in ten respondents indicated that casting their vote in advance was easy (92%), and the remaining 8% perceived it to be difficult.
    • Overall, about one-third of electors (35%) were aware that it is possible to vote by mail during a federal election.
  7. Proof of Identity/Address Requirement
    • Across all four ridings, almost all electors (97%) were aware that they were required to present proof of identity in order to vote in a federal election. Somewhat smaller majorities (88% across all four ridings) were also aware that they must also produce proof of address in order to vote. There was some variation in awareness of the proof of address requirement between the ridings, with awareness being slightly lower in Fort McMurray (84%) than in the other three ridings (Trinity—Spadina and Macleod, 90% each and Scarborough—Agincourt, 89%).
    • Among those voting, almost all (97%) across all four ridings reported that they had the required identification documents with them when they went to vote. In Fort McMurray all who voted reported this, while in Scarborough—Agincourt (97%) Trinity—Spadina (96%) and Macleod (95%) almost all did.
    • Almost all electors believed that it was at least somewhat easy (94%) to meet the identification requirements and 81% believed it was very easy. Just five percent said it was somewhat (4%) or very (1%) difficult.
    • A large majority of voters, across all four ridings, used a driver’s licences to prove their identity and address (84%, first mention, 86%, all mentions).
  8. Accessibility
    • Almost all electors who voted at a polling station or EC office (97%) agreed that the distance to the polling station or office was convenient.
    • Almost all of those who voted at a polling station indicated that the building was either very or somewhat accessible (98%).
    • Eight-six percent (86%) felt that there was enough directional signage outside of the building. Ratings of indoor signage were also very high; 94% said that, once inside the building, there were enough signs to help find the room.
    • Overall, 94% say it is easy to cast a ballot at the polling station in a federal election or By–election.
  9. Overall Satisfaction with Election Canada’s Services
    • Almost all voters (97%) across the four ridings say they were satisfied with the services provided by EC staff at the time they voted.
    • Close to eight-in-ten (78%) across all four ridings said Elections Canada ran the federal By–election fairly.
  10. Contact with Elections Canada
    • Among those aware of the federal By–election in their riding, 5% said that they contacted Elections Canada during the campaign. The proportion of electors contacting Elections Canada was highest in Trinity—Spadina (10%), and lowest in Fort McMurray (2%) and Macleod (3%).
    • Among the small proportion of respondents who contacted Elections Canada during the campaign (5% of those aware of the election), close to three-quarters (73%) indicated that they got the information they needed.
    • Among those aware of the federal By–election in their riding, 11% said that they received a phone call from Elections Canada informing them about where and when to vote during the By–election. Those in Scarborough—Agincourt were more likely than respondents in other ridings to report receiving a phone call (19% versus 11% overall). However, Elections Canada did not call people in the context of these By–elections.

Footnote 1 The margin of error for a sample of n=1,600 is ± 2.45 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error for a sample of n=400 is ± 4.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.