Letter: The CEO of Vox Pop Labs gives us the back story on that ‘secret poll’ on electoral reform

On the Hill Square Akin

Some supporters of this week were invited to participate in an survey that they were certain was a preview of the survey the federal government will soon invite all to participate in — a survey about electoral reform. Fair Vote Canada is a big proponent of replacing our first-past-the-post system of electing MPs with a proportional representation system. And when the Fair Vote supporters saw this survey they got a little hot under the collar because they believed the survey — and, by extension, the Trudeau government — was biased towards keeping the status quo.

Fair Vote Canada supporters then started taking screen shots of the survey and sent them out to reporters to raise the alarm about what they thought was an alarming survey.

You can read more about the survey, take this “secret poll” yourself, and learn more about what’s coming down the road so far as the national electoral reform survey goes at “Take the secret poll that the federal government says is not their secret poll on electoral reform!”

What we’re cheekily calling the “secret poll” is not, of course, that secret. But what relation does the poll the Fair Vote folks got have to the real one that all Canadians will soon see? Well, we’ve got the answer to that here.

The “secret poll” and the national survey to be unveiled next month is and will be by Vox Pop Labs of Toronto.  Late Thursday evening, Vox Pop’s founder and CEO Clifton van der sent me this e-mail which I reproduce here in its entirety:

Vox Pop Labs
Vox Pop Labs CEO Clifton van der Linden

Hi David —

I hope this message finds you well. Please excuse the delay in my response to your inquiries.

Over the past several weeks Vox Pop Labs has conducted a number of public opinion focused on how Canadians feel about the way Parliament works. These are pilots, and the feedback we get from Canadians is being used to inform the development of an innovative online initiative sponsored by the Government of Canada which will be made to all Canadians in due course.

Due to a programming error for which Vox Pop Labs assumes full responsibility, a subset of respondents to the most recent iteration of our pilot study was inadvertently presented with a battery of standard political science survey items (drawn from existing academic studies) that were not intended for inclusion in this study. The items were drawn from one of multiple modules that we had initially programmed for potential inclusion in the study but ultimately deactivated as our research design evolved. In our most recent pilot the module in question was inadvertently reactivated and thus made available to a limited number of respondents to the study.

Many though not all of the ‘leaked’ items currently being circulated on social media and featured in news articles were part of this battery. These items were only served to a fraction of the respondents in but one of many we have conducted in recent weeks. They offer a very limited and somewhat distorted perspective into our research design and were at no point under consideration for inclusion in the initiative we are developing.

Proper public opinion studies necessarily include pilots that field test proposed survey items. We will continue to invite Canadians to participate in our pilot studies to further test and refine our research design so as to ensure that it meets the criteria for methodological validity. We nevertheless very much regret and hope to clear up the confusion that has arisen as a result of this most recent phase of our research. We look forward to soon inviting all Canadians to engage in the broader initiative that is being developed using the findings from these studies.



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