ARCHIVED Annual Report 2004-2005

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Public Opinion Research in 2004-2005 in the Government of Canada

This chapter features an overview of the projects and contract values associated with public opinion research (POR) in the Government of Canada for 2004-2005. It provides information on POR trends, methodologies, types of research, and outlines the differences between custom and syndicated research.

Projects Coordinated through the Public Opinion Research Directorate from 2001 to 2005

The importance of public opinion research in government operations is reflected by its usage by the Government of Canada and its departments and agencies. The dollar value of POR contracted for and coordinated through the Public Opinion Research Directorate in 2004-2005 was $29 million, up from $25.4 million in the previous year. The 2004-2005 activity of 621 projects was also greater than the previous year, when 593 projects were undertaken.

Top Departments and Agencies for All Coordinated Public Opinion Research by Contract Value

A three column table containing the Top Departments and Agencies for All Coordinated Public Opinion Research by Contract Value. Column 1 identifies the departments and agencies by ranking order, column 2 indicates the contract value in thousands of dollars and column 3 shows the number of projects.
Department/Agency Contract Value
(Thousands of dollars)
Number of Projects
Health Canada 6,248 106
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada 2,033 36
Natural Resources Canada 1,701 39
Foreign Affairs Canada and International Trade Canada* 1,415 21
Canadian Heritage 1,392 37
The Canada Revenue Agency 1,261 26
Industry Canada 1,216 34
Public Works and Government Services Canada 1,195 24
Finance Canada 1,051 17
Social Development Canada 1,047 24

* In 2004-2005, the departments of Foreign Affairs Canada and International Trade Canada contracted for POR as a single research unit, hence the contract values are reported together.

Health Canada has led all departments in the use of public opinion research for several years. This trend continued in 2004-2005. The value of contracts awarded on behalf of Health Canada accounted for 22 percent of the total value of contracted research, and 17 percent of the total projects for the Government of Canada last year. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada ranks second in value of contracts, with 36 POR projects possessing a value less than one-third of Health Canada's. Eight departments and agencies had research requirements in the $1 million to $2 million range.

Highlights of the research undertaken by these departments appear in Chapter 4: Highlights Of Key Public Opinion Research Projects.

Comparison of Custom and Syndicated Research

Custom public opinion research is work commissioned for a specific department or agency. The commissioning organization holds the intellectual property rights on reports and other materials generated by the project, which are made available to other departments and the public through the Library of Parliament and Library and Archives Canada. Results of custom research required by the Government of Canada are in the public domain and accessible to all Canadians. Custom research accounts for most of the POR work undertaken by the Government of Canada.

Syndicated research studies are developed by research firms, which sell subscriptions to the studies to private and public sector clients. These off-the-shelf products often contain trend information on a variety of topics. Copyright and management of the studies' content rest entirely with the market research firms. Subscribers are prohibited from distributing the information to any other non-subscribing parties, including government departments. Syndicated research is sometimes the most cost-efficient option for meeting departmental research needs, because the costs of research are shared by the subscribers.

In 2004-2005, the Government of Canada contracted $25.3 million (460 projects) in custom research, accounting for approximately 87 percent of the total contract value of all public opinion research for the fiscal year. Syndicated studies represented $3.8 million (161 projects).

Type of Research as a Percentage of Total Contract Value of Coordinated Custom Research from 2002 to 2005

Policy Development and Program Evaluation represented the largest segment of all custom research with 35 percent of the total contract value for custom research. In 2003-2004, research in this field accounted for 24 percent of all custom research. Advertising Initiatives, which include advertising tracking and testing as well as communications product testing, and Market Research dropped in 2004-2005 compared with the previous year, when they respectively accounted for 28 percent and 21 percent of custom research contract values. Research contracted to measure the effectiveness of Web sites also dropped to 10 percent from 12 percent in the previous year. Research contracted to measure quality of service increased from 14 percent in 2003-2004 to 18 percent last year.

Percentage of Projects and Total Contract Value Based on Research Methodology for Coordinated Custom Research

Research Methodologies Used

Quantitative research refers to information obtained about some members of a population through structured techniques, such as a survey, aiming to draw conclusions for the total target population. More than half of the work undertaken fell into this distinct category, increasing from 47 percent in 2003-2004 to 54 percent in 2004-2005.

Qualitative research refers to information obtained from some members of a population through unstructured or semi-structured techniques, such as focus groups or interviews. A qualitative approach is typically used when the research needed is exploratory, in-depth, or about very complex issues. Qualitative research allows for freeflowing or semi-structured discussions which are more effective in meeting research objectives in such cases, rather than using an inflexible questionnaire with rigid response categories for each question. As an exploratory approach, no projection of results to the population can be made from this type of research. Thirty-six percent of the research conducted in 2004-2005 fell in this category, down from 41 percent the previous year.

Some projects consisted of a combination of quantitative and qualitative research that, along with the "Other" category, accounted for the remaining 10 percent. "Other" includes research projects, such as POR design (i.e., questionnaire design) and analysis.

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