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Public Opinion Survey Following the November 26, 2012 By-Elections

Executive Summary

On November 26, 2012, by-elections were held in three federal constituencies: Calgary Centre (Alberta), Durham (Ontario), and Victoria (British Columbia). Elections Canada commissioned EKOS Research Associates to conduct public opinion research with electors (eligible voters) in these ridings in the days immediately following the by-elections. A telephone survey was conducted in December 2012 with a total of 1,503 eligible voters spread evenly across the three ridings. Riding results can be considered to be accurate to within +/-4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Awareness of by-elections

  • Overall awareness of the November 26, 2012 by-elections was very high in Durham and Victoria (94 and 95 per cent aware of the by-elections), although somewhat lower in Calgary Centre (83 per cent).
  • Most electors heard about the by-elections through traditional news media like newspapers (56 and 50 per cent in Durham and Victoria, but 37 per cent in Calgary Centre), television (one in three in Durham and Victoria, but higher at 47 per cent in Calgary Centre), and radio (25 to 34 per cent in each riding). The Voter Information Card was the most widely cited information source specific to Elections Canada (15 to 21 per cent in each riding: lowest in Calgary Centre).

Information and advertising

  • Most voters learned about voting procedures from an Elections Canada source such as the VIC (68 and 66 per cent in Durham and Victoria, while 55 per cent mentioned the VIC in Calgary Centre), the EC householder (9 to 11 per cent), the EC website (one to five per cent), a local EC office (one per cent), or a general EC source (one to three per cent). One in five found out through media like newspapers (9 to 13 per cent), radio (three to six per cent), and television (three to six per cent).
  • About three to four in ten electors (41 per cent in Durham, while 36 and 41 per cent in Victoria and Calgary Centre) recall having seen or heard advertising about the by-election by Elections Canada.
  • Electors who noticed this advertising most often saw it in newspapers (especially in Durham and Victoria, 50 and 53 per cent, while 34 per cent in Calgary Centre). Some heard an ad on the radio (15 to 18 per cent) or saw it on television (10 to 15 per cent) Footnote 1.
  • Messages recalled from this advertising include the election date (22 to 29 per cent), a reminder to vote (20 to 23 per cent), and information about proving identification (9 to 14 per cent).

Interaction with Elections Canada

  • Few electors contacted Elections Canada during the campaign (three to five per cent); the majority of these say they got the information they needed, particularly in Victoria where virtually all respondents reported this to be the case.
  • Although Elections Canada does not call electors to inform them about where or when to vote during elections, roughly one in ten electors overall (16 per cent in Durham) indicated, when asked, that they recalled having received a telephone call from Elections Canada during the campaign informing them about where and when to vote. That said, the self-reported turnout among these electors is 68 per cent, which is not significantly different from the overall population.

Voter information card and registration

  • Most electors in each riding received a voter information card (VIC), addressed to them personally, telling them where and when to vote; however, this was only 69 per cent in Calgary Centre, compared to 87 and 92 per cent in Victoria and Durham.
  • Most electors who did not receive their VIC in Durham (80 per cent) and Calgary Centre (60 per cent) did nothing specific to find out whether they were registered to vote in the by-election. In Victoria, 49 per cent did nothing, while 30 per cent found out at a polling station.
  • Almost everyone who received their VIC indicated that their name and address were written correctly (97 to 99 per cent in each riding). Most voters took their VIC with them to vote (92 and 86 per cent in Durham and Victoria and 79 per cent in Calgary Centre).
  • Around half could not recall any specific information on their VIC (52 and 49 per cent in Durham and Calgary Centre, while 41 per cent in Victoria). Some electors recalled information about identification (particularly in Victoria, around 32 per cent) and advance polls (20 to 25 per cent) on the VIC.


  • The highest concentration of participation in the by-election was claimed in Victoria where 72 per cent of electors said they voted. In Durham this was 65 per cent and in Calgary Centre 48 per cent, although actual voter turnout figures are lower (less than 50 per cent in each of the ridings). Footnote 2
  • Almost half of those who mention having voted across the three ridings said they did so because it is their duty or right to vote (46 to 48 per cent).


  • Non-voters mention various reasons to explain their non voting behaviour, such as being too busy (especially in Victoria, 25 per cent), travel (14 to 17 per cent in the three ridings), lack of information related to the voting process (especially in Calgary Centre, around 14 per cent), and work (particularly in Durham, at 16 per cent).
  • Many indicated they had intended to vote or usually vote, but circumstances prevented them from doing so this time.
  • The majority in each of the ridings say that they would have voted or might have voted had an online voting option been available (58 and 59 per cent in Durham and Victoria, while 70 per cent in Calgary Centre).


  • Almost all electors were aware that they must present proof of identity in order to vote in a federal election (96 to 99 per cent).
  • Between one and two in four electors became aware of the voter identification requirements as a result of receiving a VIC in the mail (highest in Victoria at 43 per cent; 26 and 30 per cent in Calgary Centre and Durham). Some knew about these requirements from prior elections (18 to 25 per cent), general experience/knowledge (about a third), or when they went to vote (about one in ten).
  • Virtually every voter who was aware of the proof of identification and address requirements had the required documents with them (96 to 99 per cent).
  • Most electors presented a driver's license as their first (or only) proof of identity and address when they went to vote (85 to 91 per cent). Among those who mention having presented a second piece of documentation (n=220), six to 13 per cent also report that they used their driver's license. Other documents presented as first form of ID include passport, citizenship card, health card, and utility bill (under five per cent in each riding).
  • Six to eight per cent presented a Voter Information Card as proof of identification. Of those who provided a Voter Identification Card, three in four also presented a driver's license.Footnote 3
  • Nearly all electors say it is very or somewhat easy to meet the identification requirements to vote (97 to 99 per cent).

Voter experience

  • Most voters left from home when they headed to the polling station to vote (81 and 79 per cent in Victoria and Durham and 72 per cent in Calgary Centre). Some went straight from work to the polling station (13 to 19 per cent).
  • Most voted at a polling station on November 26 (highest in Durham at 86 per cent, while 81 per cent in Calgary Centre and 75 per cent in Victoria). Some voted during advance polls (highest in Victoria, 24 per cent; 12 and 15 per cent in Calgary Centre and Durham).
  • Most electors found the distance to travel to vote to be convenient for them (96 to 99 per cent). Only a few (three per cent overall) had any difficulty reaching their polling station to vote.
  • Just under half of electors (41 to 47 per cent) were unaware they could vote at any time during a federal election by mail.
  • Everyone or nearly everyone was satisfied with the language of service (100 per cent) and time spent waiting to vote (96 to 98 per cent). Roughly nine in ten were satisfied with EC staff (87 to 92 per cent).
  • Almost all voters say that voting was easy (88 per cent very easy; 9 per cent somewhat easy).


  • Nine in ten voters say that the building where they voted was very accessible (89 to 95 per cent).
  • About one in ten overall (15 per cent in Victoria) say there were not enough directional signs outside the building to help them find the entrance. Almost everyone (about 96 per cent) says there were enough signs inside the building to direct them to the polling station.
  • Signs indicating level access for wheelchairs were noticed by 48 per cent in Durham, while 40 and 39 per cent in Victoria and Calgary Centre. The majority of these people say the signs were either highly visible (67 to 72 per cent) or somewhat visible (18 to 22 per cent).

Trust in election process

  • Most electors say the election was run fairly by Elections Canada (61 to 73 per cent very fairly, 9 to 16 per cent somewhat fairly) and a few say that it was run unfairly (2 per cent somewhat unfairly and 1 per cent very unfairly). A significant minority said that they did not know (16 per cent). As a reference point, it can be stated that these results are similar to that of the 2011 general elections, except for the percentage of electors who thought that the election was run somewhat fairly (25 per cent in 2011) and those who did not know (6 per cent in 2011).

Use of Technology

  • More than nine in ten electors (92 per cent overall) have access to the Internet. Most electors access the Internet through a laptop (63 to 73%) or a desktop (60 to 64 per cent), while more than two in five (44 per cent) use a smart phone and 29 per cent use a tablet.

Footnote 1 It should be noted that Elections Canada did not produce any television ads for the by-elections.

Footnote 2 Previous post-election surveys by Elections Canada have also found that reported election participation is higher than actual voter turnout. These incongruities are likely due to a combination of sample and social desirability biases.

Footnote 3 For the by-elections being held on November 26, 2012, the voter information card was accepted as one of two authorized pieces of identification at polling stations located in long-term care facilities, in seniors' residences, on Indian reserves and in students' residences located on campus.