Political Financing Handbook for Third Parties, Financial Agents and Auditors – June 2021
To be used for non-fixed-date general elections and by-elections
7. Regulated Activities: Election Surveys in an Election Period
This chapter looks at the "election survey" category of regulated activities that take place during the election period and provides examples.
It covers the following topics:
- What is an election survey?
- Election survey expenses
- Other rules: publication of results, blackout period and telephone surveys
What is an election survey?
What is an election survey in general?
An election survey collects data from electors: whether they intend to vote in an election, who they intend to vote for or did vote for, or their opinions regarding an issue with which a registered party or a candidate is clearly associated.
An election survey is a regulated activity when it is conducted by or on behalf of a third party during an election period and the results are used:
- in deciding whether or not to organize and carry out regulated activities, or
- when organizing and carrying out partisan activities or transmitting advertising messages
Survey companies themselves do not need to register when they are commissioned and paid by another person or group to conduct an election survey. However, they still need to follow the rules set out in Publication of election survey results based on recognized statistical methods below if they are the first organization to transmit the results.
Note: Partisan activities or election surveys conducted by provincially registered political parties are not regulated activities for the purposes of the Canada Elections Act.
Surveys of members, employees or shareholders are included
An election survey is regulated even if it is directed at the third party's own members, employees or shareholders. As an example, if a third party surveys its members about their voting intentions and then sends them an email promoting the top choice, these are both regulated activities.
Election survey expenses
Expenses incurred for election surveys conducted during the election period are subject to the election period expenses limit, no matter when the expenses were incurred.
This includes any non-monetary contribution received to the extent that the property or service is used in relation to conducting election surveys.
At the beginning of the election period, the third party hires an election polling company to conduct a survey for $12,000 to identify ridings with a large number of undecided voters. The third party uses the survey results to organize partisan activities in some ridings. The $12,000 is an election survey expense subject to the limit for the election period.
Other rules: Publication of results, blackout period and telephone surveys
Publication of election survey results based on recognized statistical methods
When an election survey is based on recognized statistical methods, whether or not it is a third party regulated activity, the first person who transmits the results to the public during an election period must publish the following information about the survey:
- the name of the survey sponsor
- the name of the person or organization that conducted the survey
- the dates or period during which the survey was conducted
- the population from which the sample of respondents was drawn
- the number of people who were contacted to participate in the survey
- if applicable, the margin of error for the data
- the address of the website on which a report by the survey's sponsor is published
If the survey is transmitted to the public by means other than broadcasting, the wording of the survey questions for which the data was obtained must be provided.
Report by survey sponsor
If a third party conducts an election survey or pays for one to be conducted, the third party is the survey sponsor. If it is the first to transmit the survey results, the third party must publish a report. The report must be published on a public website and stay there for the remainder of the election period.
The report has to include the following:
- the name and address of the survey sponsor
- the name and address of the person or organization that conducted the survey
- the dates or period during which the survey was conducted
- information about the data collection method
- the sampling method
- the population from which the sample was drawn
- the initial sample size
- the number of individuals who were asked to participate and the numbers and respective percentages of them who participated, refused and were ineligible
- the dates and time of day of the interviews
- the method used to recalculate data to take into account participants who expressed no opinion, were undecided or failed to respond to any or all of the survey questions
- any weighting factors or normalization procedures used in deriving the results
- the wording of the survey questions and, if applicable, the margins of error for the data
Note: If another person transmits the survey results during the election period, they must inform the survey sponsor so that it can prepare and publish the report.
Publication of election survey results not based on recognized statistical methods
When an election survey is not based on recognized statistical methods, whether or not it is a third party regulated activity, the first person who transmits the results of the survey to the public during an election period must include a statement that the survey was not based on recognized statistical methods.
Whether or not an election survey is a third party regulated activity, election survey results that have not been previously transmitted to the public in an electoral district may not be transmitted on election day before all polls close in that electoral district.
Telephone surveys in the election period
Whether or not a survey conducted by telephone is a third party regulated activity, third parties must follow certain rules if they use voter contact calling services to conduct the survey. These are services involving the making of calls during an election period for any purpose related to an election, including:
- promoting or opposing a registered party, its leader, a candidate or a nomination contestant or any position on an issue with which such a party or person is associated
- encouraging electors to vote or to refrain from voting
- providing information about the election, including information about voting hours and the location of polling stations
- gathering information about how electors voted in past elections or will vote in the election or their views on a registered party, its leader, a candidate or a nomination contestant or any issue with which such a party or person is associated
- raising funds for a registered party, a registered association, a candidate or a nomination contestant
If a script is used for the telephone calls, the third party must keep the following for one year after the end of the election period:
- a copy of each unique script used
- a record of every date on which the script was used
- a list of every telephone number called
The rules are administered and enforced by the CRTC. The Commissioner of Canada Elections is responsible for enforcing the requirement to keep a copy of the scripts and recorded messages.
Note: For the rules on voter contact calling services, please refer to the CRTC's Voter Contact Registry web page. A link to the page is posted on the Elections Canada website.