Frequently asked questions

What is public opinion research?

The Directive on the Management of Communications defines the public opinion research as:

"the planned, one-way systematic collection, by or for the Government of Canada, of opinion-based information of any target audience using quantitative or qualitative methods and techniques such as surveys or focus groups. Public opinion research provides insight and supports decision making. The process used for gathering information usually assumes an expectation and guarantee of anonymity for respondents."

You may refer to Appendix C of the Directive on the Management of Communications for more information.

Why does the Government of Canada conduct public opinion research?

Public opinion research helps the Government of Canada to better understand Canadian society and to identify citizen needs and expectations. It is used to assess the public's response to proposals or to possible changes or initiatives; to assess the effectiveness of policies, programs and services; to measure progress in service improvement; to evaluate the effectiveness of communication activities such as advertising; and to plan and evaluate marketing initiatives, among other applications.

Does the Government of Canada conduct public opinion polls for partisan political purposes?

No. In keeping with the principles of a non-partisan public service, departments and agencies may not issue contracts or expend public funds for research on electoral voting intentions, or political party preferences or party standings with the electorate.

What types of public opinion studies are conducted for the Government of Canada?

Examples include policy-making, marketing, communications and advertising, program evaluation, quality of service studies, customer satisfaction studies, product development and web site testing and evaluation.

The information gathered assists in various tasks:

  • developing programs, services and communications products;
  • assessing policy initiatives and plans;
  • designing delivery methods for government programs and services;
  • measuring the demands and expectations of the Canadian population and stakeholders (e.g. businesses); and
  • evaluating programs and services to ensure value for public money spent.

What is the role of Public Works and Government Services Canada in public opinion research for the Government of Canada?

Public Works and Government Services Canada provides a mandatory common service coordinating public opinion research for federal institutions. Public Works and Government Services Canada provides guidance, offers advice, organizes information sessions, and develops research guides and other publications. These help federal organizations to achieve their research objectives and meet their accountabilities in ensuring the value and quality of the research they undertake.

When is the Annual Report on Public Opinion Research in the Government of Canada released?

To establish a standard practice, Public Works and Government Services Canada has set a fixed date for the release of its Public Opinion Research in the Government of Canada—Annual Report. The report will be released, each year, on the first business day of September. Accordingly, the 2015-16 Annual Report on Government of Canada Public Opinion Research will be made public on September 1, 2016.

Are the results of recent public opinion research studies conducted for the Government of Canada available to me?

Yes. As of August 1, 2006, the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada requires all federal departments and agencies to deposit with Library and Archives Canada the final reports of all Public Opinion Research for which a contract was awarded. Departments are required to deposit those reports within six months of the completion of the data collection for public opinion research.