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Survey of Electors Following the October 23, 2017, By-election in Lac-Saint-Jean (Quebec) and Sturgeon River–Parkland (Alberta)

Executive Summary

Elections Canada commissioned Phoenix Strategic Perspectives to conduct this research to assist in evaluating the October 23, 2017, federal by-elections.

Background and Objectives

Elections Canada (EC) is an independent, non-partisan agency that reports directly to Parliament. The agency is mandated to conduct federal general elections, by-elections and referendums; administer the political financing provisions of the Canada Elections Act; and monitor compliance.

As part of its evaluation program, the agency wanted to survey eligible electors in the electoral districts of Sturgeon River–Parkland (Alberta) and Lac-Saint-Jean (Quebec), where by-elections were held on October 23, 2017. The purpose was to evaluate electors' opinions, experience, attitudes and knowledge of the agency's services and various aspects of the electoral process.

Surveyed electors were consulted on these issues:

  • awareness of the election and of the various methods of voting
  • sources of information about the election
  • experiences with registration, including with the voter information card
  • experiences with communications from EC
  • experiences with voting in the by-election
  • attitudes to EC and election results

The results will be used to help evaluate and refine EC's programs and services to the electorate and may be incorporated into the content of the Chief Electoral Officer's reports to Parliament.


A 12-minute random-digit-dial telephone survey was conducted with 800 eligible electors (400 per electoral district). Eligible electors were Canadian citizens, at least 18 years of age on polling day (October 23, 2017), and residents of the electoral district (that is, their address of ordinary residence was in the electoral district) from the first day of the revision period until election day. The survey data were weighted to accurately reflect the age and gender distribution of eligible electors in each of the two federal electoral districts under study. The interviews were conducted November 19 to December 6, 2017.

Based on a sample of this size, the results can be considered accurate to within ±3.5%, 19 times out of 20 (finite population factor applied). The results for each of the electoral districts can be considered accurate to within ±4.9%, 19 times out of 20.

For a more detailed description of the methodology, please see the methodology note available under separate cover.


  • Younger electors (those under 35 years of age) were under-represented in the final survey sample, and older electors (55 years of age and older) were over-represented, as is often the case with telephone surveys of the general public. The survey weights correct for this issue. This reduces any bias resulting from survey non-response (should it be present), but it does not necessarily eliminate it. If electors under 35 who responded to the survey have different views on the issues addressed from those under 35 who did not respond to the survey, the age bias (if there is one) might have been magnified. It is not known, however, whether there is any such difference.
  • The terms "electors" and "respondents" are used interchangeably to refer to survey participants. The term "voters" refers to survey participants who reported having voted in the October 23 by-election.
  • All results in the report are expressed as percentages, unless otherwise noted. Percentages may not always add to 100% due to rounding or multiple mentions.
  • The number of respondents changes throughout the report because questions were often asked of sub-samples of the survey population. Therefore, exercise caution when interpreting results based on smaller numbers of respondents.
  • Demographic and other subgroup differences are identified in the report. When reporting subgroup variations, the report discusses only the differences that are significant at the 95% confidence level, indicate a pattern, or pertain to a subgroup sample size of more than n=30.


  1. Awareness of the By-election and Voter Information
    • Virtually all (93%) respondents were aware of the October 23, 2017, federal by-election that took place in their riding.
    • About two thirds (67%) of respondents who were aware of the election recalled seeing, hearing or reading advertisements or receiving communications from EC about how, when and where to vote.
    • Respondents who recalled seeing advertisements or receiving communications about the by-election were most likely to have noticed it in the newspaper (36%), on television (30%), or on the radio (21%).
    • Few respondents visited the EC website (7%), and even fewer attempted to contact EC during the campaign (2%).
  2. Voter Information Card and Registration
    • The majority (83%) of electors received their voter information card (VIC), and over three quarters (78%) brought it to the polling station.
    • Nearly all respondents who received a VIC reported it showed the correct name (98%) and address (96%).
    • Over four in five (84%) respondents knew that voters need to be registered in order to vote in a federal by-election.
    • A split-sample experiment was used to test the effect of question formulation on measures of awareness of online registration. Half of the respondents were asked the question as it was formulated in previous surveys, and the other half were asked a simplified version. The simplified formulation led to a higher proportion of respondents who said they are aware of online registration (70%) than did the original formulation (51%).
  3. Voting and Voter Participation
    • Among those who were aware of the by-election, nearly three in five (57%) respondents reported voting in the October 23, 2017, election.
    • Among respondents who did not vote in the election, nearly half (46%) said they did not vote due to everyday life or health reasons.
    • Over three quarters (77%) of respondents said they voted at a polling station on election day.
    • Nearly all (95%) respondents were aware they could vote at an advance polling station. Awareness was lower for other voting methods: 66% were aware they could vote at a local EC office, and 28% were aware they could vote through mail.
  4. Voter Identification
    • A question about voter identification found that nearly all respondents (98%) were aware that voters had to provide proof of identity, while fewer (92%) were aware that voters had to provide proof of address. This is in line with the findings from previous post-electoral surveys.
    • However, in a split-sample experiment, a second approach was tested and found lower numbers of respondents who were fully aware of identification requirements. Responding to the revised question, 69% of respondents correctly answered that electors must provide proof of both identity and address to vote at a federal election, but 26% incorrectly answered that proof of identity alone was sufficient.
    • Almost all respondents (96%) reported having brought the required identification documents to the polling station.
    • Nearly all respondents (96%) found it easy to meet the identification requirements, with 88% saying it was very easy.
  5. Voter Experience
    • Almost all respondents (94%) reported it was easy to vote during the October 23, 2017, federal by-election, with 78% saying it was very easy.
    • All respondents (100%) were satisfied with the official language in which they were served.
    • Almost all (96%) respondents were satisfied with EC staff when they voted, with 86% saying they were very satisfied.
    • Virtually all (95%) voters were satisfied with their overall voting experience, with 74% saying they were very satisfied.
  6. Fairness
    • Most (84%) felt that EC ran the October 23, 2017, federal by-election fairly, with over half (56%) saying that it ran the election very fairly.
    • Nearly 9 in 10 (88%) trust the accuracy of the results in their riding, with over half (54%) saying they have a very high level of trust.