Archived—A year in review—Public Opinion Research in the Government of Canada—Annual Report 2014 to 2015
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Public opinion research provides the government with a better understanding of Canadians’ opinions and attitudes in order to respond to their needs. The government uses this information for three broad purposes: to identify areas to improve the way the government serves Canadians, to take Canadians’ needs into account in all aspects of its activities, and to inform Canadians about its various policies, programs and services.
In 2014 to 2015, a total of 54 contracted public opinion research projects worth $4.1 million were coordinated through Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC)’s Public Opinion Research Directorate. Of these projects, 24 were conducted with the objectives of ensuring easy access to information and services, helping to understand Canadians’ views and measure their satisfaction in order to better serve Canadians; 14 projects were conducted with the objectives of strengthening policies and developing communication strategies and products that take into account Canadians’ needs; and the remaining 16 projects supported the Government of Canada in its efforts to effectively inform Canadians about government programs, policies and services.
Table 1: Areas of application for contracted public opinion research Footnote 1
Table summaryThe table entitled “Areas of Application for Contracted Public Opinion Research” has three columns and five rows. The first column contains the names of the three areas of applications. The two other columns headers are: “Contract Value” and “Number of Projects”. The last row of the table provides the totals for each area of applications.
|Contract Value Footnote 1||Number of Projects Footnote 1|
|Serving Canadians Better||$1,716,909||24|
|Taking into Account Canadians’ Needs||$1,527,174||14|
Figure 1.1: Percentage of contract values Footnote2
This figure is a pie chart on the contracted values for Public Opinion Research (POR) projects in the Government of Canada. The following information is presented in the sections of the pie chart:
- Taking into Account Canadians’ Needs: accounted for 37 percent of the contracted value for POR
- Serving Canadians Better: accounted for 41 percent of the contracted value for POR
- Informing Canadians: accounted for 22 percent of the contracted value for POR
Figure 1.2: Percentage of total projects Footnote2
This figure is a pie chart on Public Opinion Research (POR) projects in the Government of Canada. The following information is presented in the sections of the pie chart:
- Taking into Account Canadians’ Needs: accounted for 26 percent of the POR projects
- Serving Canadians Better: accounted for 44 percent of the POR projects
- Informing Canadians: accounted for 30 percent of the POR projects
Serving Canadians better
Public opinion research is used to understand how people view government policies, programs and services. It helps the government assess the level of engagement and satisfaction of Canadians with respect to the services offered and the initiatives put in place by their government. It also allows the government to find ways to improve these services. This can be done by means of:
- Market research involves collecting information on attitudes, opinions and product attributes that will help in the design and delivery of programs and services
- Client satisfaction research measures the degree to which a product or service meets client expectations. The results of client satisfaction studies help the government understand Canadians’ views about and experiences with government services. This information helps the government better understand the drivers of client satisfaction and areas requiring improvement. It is also used to support a more productive work environment
- Program evaluation assesses the effectiveness of programs and services and the factors related to their usefulness to Canadians
- Website usability testing involves the testing of new or revised Web pages to ensure that they are functional, comprehensive and useful. The content, format, features and ease of navigation are tested to ensure government websites meet the needs of the intended user
Studies aimed at serving Canadians better accounted for 41 percent of the total contract value of public opinion research for the 2014 to 2015 fiscal year (see Figure on Percentage of Contract Values [Figure 1.1] and Figure on the Percentage of Total Projects [Figure 1.2]).
Taking into account Canadians' needs
With the research findings from public opinion research, the Government of Canada can better identify the needs of Canadians, work at improving existing policies and programs and put forward new initiatives. Public opinion research helps the government to gain a better understanding of the public’s attitudes and perspectives. It also contributes to the development and delivery of government programs and information products and helps identify the best approaches and communication tools to use to reach Canadians. This is achieved with:
- Policy development and review gauges attitudes and opinions to help tailor public policies that reflect the needs and expectations of Canadians, or specific stakeholder groups affected by those policies
- Communications plan development examines awareness, attitudes and behavioural intentions to help the government better communicate with Canadians. It helps identify the best approaches to reach out to the public
- Communication product testing includes the evaluation of concepts, messages, content and creative design with key target audiences
In 2014 to 2015, studies conducted to take into account Canadians’ needs accounted for 37 percent of the total contract value of public opinion research (see Figure on Percentage of Contract Values [Figure 1.1] and Figure on the Percentage of Total Projects [Figure 1.2]).
The government has a duty to explain its policies and decisions to Canadians and inform them of available programs and services. Public opinion research helps ensure that information about policies, programs and services is clear, concise and targeted to appropriate audiences through:
- Advertising pretesting tests advertising materials and concepts associated with major campaigns. This helps to ensure that the materials and texts are clear and well understood before they are used in advertisements. Pretesting is mandatory for campaigns with a media buy of $1 million or more Footnote3
- Advertising post evaluation measures recall and recognition of major advertising campaigns, as well as attitude and behavioural changes resulting from these campaigns. Post evaluation of advertising is mandatory for campaigns with a media buy of $1 million or more Footnote4. The information from these studies is used to improve the planning and development of current and future advertising campaigns
Studies intended to inform Canadians accounted for 22 percent of the total contract value of public opinion research for the 2014 to 2015 fiscal year (see Figure on Percentage of Contract Values [Figure 1.1] and Figure on the Percentage of Total Projects [Figure 1.2]).
Public opinion research relies on various data collection techniques to obtain information from a wide variety of audiences. The research approaches used to reach these audiences include qualitative methodologies, quantitative methodologies or a combination of both, referred to as a mixed-mode approach.
Qualitative research is widely used to gain insights into people’s behaviours and perceptions and explore their opinions on a particular topic. This approach is typically used when the research needed is exploratory, in-depth or about very complex issues. It relies on semi-structured or unstructured interviews where the moderator or interviewer works with a discussion guide that can be adapted according to the participants’ individual experiences and responses. The most commonly used qualitative techniques are focus group discussions, group interviews and personal interviews. Qualitative methodologies do not yield numeric data and the findings cannot be projected to the general population. During the 2014 to 2015 fiscal year, 17 projects undertaken used qualitative methodologies, accounting for an amount of $1,204,504, or 29 percent of the total contract value for public opinion research studies (see Figure on Research Methodologies Used for Contracted Public Opinion Research [Figure 2]).
Quantitative research uses a more systematic approach to collect and analyze information obtained from a sample of the target population. This method includes structured techniques, such as surveys, with the aim of drawing conclusions for the total target population to provide results. A quantitative approach is typically used when statistics or numerical results are required. In 2014 to 2015, 19 of the projects undertaken used quantitative methodologies, representing an amount of $989,569 or 24 percent of the total contract value (see Figure on Research Methodologies Used for Contracted Public Opinion Research [Figure 2]).
Qualitative and quantitative research methods can be combined over the course of a study to meet various research objectives. Studies based on both quantitative and qualitative methodologies accounted for the remaining 18 projects, an amount of $1,942,331 or 47 percent of the total contract value of the projects undertaken during the 2014 to 2015 fiscal year (see Figure on Research Methodologies Used for Contracted Public Opinion Research [Figure 2]).
Figure 2: Research methodologies used for contracted public opinion research Footnote5
This figure shows two charts: one bar chart and one pie chart. The bar chart provides information on the contract value for each research methodologies used. The pie chart provides information on the percentages of the contract value for each research methodologies used. The following information is presented in the sections of the charts:
- Qualitative Research: an amount of $1,204,504 accounted for 29 percent of the total contract value for public opinion research studies used qualitative methods
- Quantitative Research: an amount of $989,569 accounted for 24 percent of the total contract value for public opinion research studies used quantitative methods
- Combination of Qualitative and Quantitative Research: an amount of $1,942,331 accounted for 47 percent of the total contract value for public opinion research studies used qualitative and quantitative methods
Other key activities
In 2014 to 2015, PWGSC released for the first time Standards for the Conduct of Government of Canada Public Opinion Research – Qualitative Research. Qualitative research involves the use of data collection methods such as focus groups and in-depth interviews to explore and gain insights into people’s opinions, attitudes and behaviours on a particular topic in greater depth than is possible through a survey. These new standards will complement existing standards for telephone and online surveys to help ensure uniform high quality in public opinion research studies conducted for the Government of Canada. The standards can be found on the PWGSC website.
Under the Treasury Board Procedures for the Management of Public Opinion Research, PWGSC is responsible for developing government-wide contracting tools to facilitate the purchase of public opinion research services. In 2014 to 2015, PWGSC began work to renew its standing offers for these services. As part of the process, PWGSC consulted with departments and agencies as well as the research industry to ensure that the resulting standing offers were reflective of anticipated services, expertise and newer available technologies. Following these consultations, PWGSC launched a competitive process on Buyandsell.gc.ca. The process was designed to encourage the participation of businesses of all sizes, whether small, medium or large, many of which offer specialized services in terms of target population, geographic scope, subject matter expertise and methodology. Work will continue in 2015-2016 to complete the technical and financial evaluation of the offers submitted. The resulting standing offers will be in place until March 31, 2018, with options to renew the standing offers for three (3) additional one (1) year option periods.
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