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Public Opinion Survey Following the November 25, 2013 By-elections

Executive Summary

The findings from the November 25, 2013 by-elections survey show that electors were generally satisfied with the work of Elections Canada: staff provided satisfactory service (86% of voters were very satisfied; 12% somewhat), it was easy to cast a ballot (72% said very easy; 23% somewhat), and that the by-elections were run fairly (58% said very fairly; 22% somewhat).

Awareness of the by-elections, voting procedures and requirements was high across all four ridings (93%). Generally, electors learned about the by-elections occurring from traditional media sources (television, 44%; newspapers, 38%; and radio, 30%), and about when and where to vote from their voter information card (VIC), which most electors (87%) reported having received. Most respondents obtained specific information on voting procedures from their VIC (59%).

Awareness of identification requirements was also high (95% aware of identity requirements, and 87% aware of proof of address requirements). Virtually all voters were able to comply with identification requirements (97%). Among the few who did not have sufficient identification, most either had other electors vouch for their identity (50%), or left and returned to the polling station with the necessary documents (23%).

Awareness of Elections Canada advertising was lower compared to by-election awareness. One-third of electors (36%) recalled having seen or heard an advertisement from Elections Canada over the course of the by-elections, and half that many said they received a call from Elections Canada (18%). It should be noted that Elections Canada made no calls to electors during the by-elections, and that this is likely evidence of recall error on respondents' part (i.e., conflation of outreach by candidates with outreach by Elections Canada). Those who reported receiving a call from Elections Canada were no less likely than those who did not to have voted in the by-elections.

Nearly all voters described the polling station's building as accessible (89%), as well as at a convenient distance from their home or work (97%). Visibility of wheelchair accessibility signage was low, with about two-thirds of voters reporting they did not see (41%), or cannot recall (23%) if they saw, signs indicating that the building had level access for wheelchairs.

Satisfaction with other aspects of voting was also high: virtually all voters deemed wait times at polling stations to be reasonable (97%), and most electors who contacted Elections Canada prior to voting were able to obtain all the information they required (78% said they received all information they needed; 15% some).

The survey also showed that the drivers of voting behaviour were largely non-political. Common reasons for voting included a sense of duty and habit (63%), while common reasons for not voting included work (16%), travel (15%), and being otherwise busy (13%). Most non-voters said that they would have voted had they been able to do so online (62%).

As detailed throughout this report, findings differed significantly between the four ridings. Many of these differences show a divide between the two rural Manitoba ridings and the two urban ridings. For instance, voters in Manitoba were more likely to believe that the by-elections were run fairly (62% said very fairly; 20% said somewhat), that it was easy to vote (88% said very easy; 9% somewhat), and that they were satisfied with Elections Canada staff (93% said very satisfied; 7% said somewhat). Experiences with Elections Canada outside of the polling stations also appear to have differed somewhat. Electors in Brandon—Souris were significantly more likely to have noticed an Elections Canada advertisement (44%), while those in Bourassa were more likely to have reported receiving a call from Elections Canada (30%). Electors in Toronto Centre were least likely to report having received a voter information card (80%).

The report has also shown that various socio-demographic groups have different perceptions of, and experiences with, the by-elections, varying primarily by age bracket. Older electors were more likely to vote (72% of electors aged 55 or older), and more likely to take advantage of advance polls (17%). They were also more likely to say they voted out of habit (16%), and more likely to report already being familiar with voting procedures and identification requirements (35%). Youth commonly cited being busy with work or other matters as the reason why they did not vote (73% of non-voters aged 18 to 34), and in turn were more likely to say changes to the electoral process, such as providing more time to vote, would encourage them to vote in the future (31%). Youth non-voters were also significantly more receptive to online voting than older non-voters (72% of non-voting youth, 69% of non-voters aged 35 to 54, but only 36% of older non-voters). As age is highly related to employment status, it is likely that some of the observed differences for students and retirees are in fact driven by age. However, age may not explain all demographic differences. Gender and income were also found to be significant drivers of perception and experience for a number of questions asked.

All told, although the survey results point Elections Canada to some areas for potential improvement – such as increasing awareness of vote-by-mail option and improving the visibility of wheelchair accessibility signage – the results confirm that the electors of varying ages, backgrounds, and needs received the information and service they required to exercise their democratic rights.