The year in review—16th Annual report on Government of Canada public opinion research activities

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The government uses public opinion research to ask Canadians about their thoughts and concerns on matters of importance to them. In the past fiscal year (from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017), a total of 129 research studies were contracted by 34 federal departments at a cost of $12.5 million. This amount includes new syndicated research (proprietary studies sold to subscribing clients), where 6 studies were purchased at a cost of $417,000.

The growing importance of public opinion research coincides with the government's renewed emphasis on evidence-based decision-making and on the willingness of Canadians to participate by providing feedback. The EKOS Research Associates' 2017 syndicated study, Rethinking Citizen Engagement, tells us that 84% of respondents agreed with the statement, “I would personally feel better about government decision-making if I knew that governments sought informed input from average citizens on a regular basis.”

In fiscal year 2016 to 2017 we saw an increase in public opinion research activities. The volume of contracted research activities tends to go up and down in relation to the needs and priorities of government. In this respect, the increase points to the intent of government to involve Canadians and, with their assistance, make improvements to government programs and services that are designed to serve them.

At the same time, research costs have been contained. As an example, departments are encouraged to use existing data, where available, and otherwise take advantage of standing offer agreements for public opinion research services. The standing offers facilitate contracting with pre-qualified suppliers and extend the benefit of competitive fixed rates to keep costs down. Also, by sharing single subscriptions to syndicated studies, all departments gained access to the information collected by these studies. This cost-sharing and data-sharing approach helped supply smaller departments with information that they would otherwise not have been able to purchase.

Fiscal year 2016 to 2017 was a year of new planned activities. It was a time to take a fresh look at how the government's public opinion research projects could be made more productive or effective in relation to their cost. A good example of this search for a better way is the Privy Council Office's continuous tracking survey, which collects Canadians' views, in real time, on a variety of subjects relevant to the government. This type of rolling survey, which reaches 500 respondents per week, is a well-established means of learning where Canadians stand on issues. Focus groups that complement the survey, but shed more light on the nature of Canadians' views, are conducted on an ongoing basis. The benefit of this approach is clear when departmental research needs can be accommodated through these studies, such as by adding a question to the survey questionnaire or focus group discussion guide. Collaboration among departments, to increase efficiencies, reduce expenses and share information across government and with Canadians, is a stated goal of the government.

The Government of Canada's research activities very much resemble those of Canadian businesses and other sectors of the economy, which use similar research methods to guide decision-making. The amount contracted by the government on research represents only a small portion of the total amount spent on research in the Canadian economy. Public opinion research contracted by the Government of Canada ($12.5 million in the fiscal year 2016 to 2017) compares with $483.8 million in total revenues reported by Canadian marketing research firms in 2015 (the most recent data available).
Source: Marketing Research and Intelligence Association 2015 Financial Activity Survey

On the following pages you will see the full list of projects contracted in the 2016 to 2017 fiscal year. A quick scan of the list will give you an idea of the range of subject matter that was explored, and the many groups of Canadians we heard from. For a more in-depth look at studies that interest you in particular, go to the Library and Archives of Canada's website.

We heard from many Canadians last year

We heard from many Canadians last year - Description below.

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This image entitled “We heard from many Canadians last year” has 3 sections. The first section shows 5 people silhouettes having a conversation on the following topics:

The second section presents the breakdown of research methods by number of projects:

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The research target audience included the general population and…

Research findings

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