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Survey of Electors Following the December 11, 2017, By-election in Bonavista–Burin–Trinity (Newfoundland and Labrador), Scarborough–Agincourt (Ontario), Battlefords–Lloydminster (Saskatchewan) and South Surrey–White Rock (British Columbia)

Executive Summary

Elections Canada commissioned Phoenix Strategic Perspectives to conduct research to help evaluate the December 11, 2017, federal by-election.

Background and Objectives

Elections Canada 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, monitor compliance and enforce electoral legislation.

As part of its evaluation program, the agency wants to conduct a survey of eligible electors in four electoral districts where a by-election was held on December 11, 2017. The electoral districts are:

  • Bonavista–Burin–Trinity (Newfoundland and Labrador)
  • Scarborough–Agincourt (Ontario)
  • Battlefords–Lloydminster (Saskatchewan)
  • South Surrey–White Rock (British Columbia)

The purpose of the survey was to evaluate electors' opinions, experiences and attitudes about various election-related issues. More specifically, surveyed electors were consulted on the following issues:

  • awareness of the by-election and the different methods of voting;
  • sources of information about the election;
  • experiences with registration, including the Voter Information Card (VIC);
  • experiences with communications from Elections Canada;
  • experiences with voting in the federal general election; and
  • attitudes towards Elections Canada and election results.

The results will be used to assist in evaluating and refining Elections Canada's programs and services to the electorate.


A 12-minute random digit dial telephone survey was conducted with 1,600 eligible electors, 400 per riding. Eligible electors were Canadian citizens, at least 18 years of age on polling day (December 11, 2017), who were residents of the electoral district (i.e. had an address of ordinary residence in the electoral district) from the first day of the by-election period until election day. The survey data were weighted to accurately reflect the age and gender distribution of eligible electors in each of the four federal electoral districts under study. The data collection was conducted from January 3 to January 30, 2018.

Based on a sample of this size, the results can be considered accurate to within ±2.5%, 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 complete description of the methodology, please refer to the methodology note available under separate cover.

Note to Readers

  • As is often the case with telephone surveys of the general public, younger electors (those under 35 years of age) were underrepresented in the final survey sample and older electors (those 55 years of age or older) were overrepresented. The survey weights correct for this issue. This serves to reduce bias resulting from survey non-response should it be present, but it does not necessarily eliminate it. If electors under 35 years of age who responded to the survey differ in their views on the issues addressed in the study from those under 35 years of age 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.
  • For editorial purposes, the terms "electors" and "respondents" are used interchangeably to denote survey participants. The term "voters" denotes survey participants who reported having voted.
  • 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 subsamples of the survey population. Accordingly, readers should be aware of this and 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, only differences that are significant at the 95% confidence level and/or pertaining to a subgroup sample size of more than n=30 are discussed in the report.
  • If one or more categories in a subgroup are not mentioned in a discussion of subgroup differences (for example, if two out of four surveyed electoral districts are compared), it can be assumed that significant differences were found only among the categories reported.


  1. Awareness of By-election and Voter Information
    • Nine in ten (91%) respondents were aware of the December 11, 2017, federal by-election that took place in their riding.
    • Two thirds (66%) of respondents who were aware of the election recalled seeing, hearing or reading advertisements or receiving communications from Elections Canada 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 through the newspaper (29%), an Elections Canada householder (21%) or a VIC (21%).
    • Few respondents visited the Elections Canada website during the campaign (9%) and even fewer respondents contacted Elections Canada during the campaign (4%). Among those who did contact Elections Canada, 88% were satisfied with the information provided.
    • If looking for information about where, when and how to vote in a future election, half of respondents (53%) selected the Elections Canada website as their preferred method. This was followed, at a distance, by a 1-800 phone number (17%) or a mobile application for their smartphone or tablet (13%). These preferences were strongly correlated to electors' age, with younger electors more likely to prefer a mobile application and older electors more likely to prefer the 1-800 phone number.
  2. Voter Information Card and Registration
    • The vast majority of electors received their VIC (87%) and brought it to the polling station (86%).
    • Virtually all electors reported that the name (98%) and the address (99%) on their VIC were accurate.
    • Approximately four in five (82%) electors knew that voters need to be registered to vote in the federal by-election.
    • A split sample experiment was used to test the impact of question formulation on measures of awareness of online registration. Half of respondents were asked the question as it was formulated in previous surveys, and the other half were asked a simplified version of the question. The simplified formulation resulted in a higher proportion of respondents who said they are aware of online registration (66%) compared to the original formulation (50%).
  3. Voting and Voter Participation
    • Among those who were aware of the by-election, three in five (61%) respondents reported voting in the December 11, 2017, federal by-election.
    • Among respondents who did not vote in the election, nearly half (47%) said they did not vote due to everyday life and health reasons.
    • Over three quarters of respondents (77%) reported they voted at a polling station on election day.
    • The vast majority (94%) of respondents were aware they could vote at advance polling stations. Awareness was lower for other voting methods: 58% were aware they could vote at a local Elections Canada office, and 43% were aware they could vote by mail.
  4. Voter Identification
    • Similar to previous findings from post-electoral surveys, a question about voter identification found that almost all respondents (97%) were aware that voters had to provide proof of identity; however, fewer respondents (86%) were aware that voters had to provide proof of address.
    • 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, 74% of respondents correctly answered that electors must provide proof of both identity and address to vote at a federal election, but 21% incorrectly answered that proof of identity alone was sufficient.
    • Almost all (98%) reported having brought the required identification documents to the polling station.
    • Virtually all (99%) found it easy to meet the identification requirements, with 92% saying it was very easy.
  5. Voter Experience
    • Almost all (96%) respondents reported it was easy to vote during the December 11, 2017, federal by-election, with 86% saying it was very easy.
    • All voters chose to be served in English; 99% were satisfied with the service they received in the official language.
    • Virtually all (98%) respondents were satisfied with Elections Canada staff when they voted, with 88% saying they were very satisfied.
    • Nearly all (97%) respondents were satisfied with their overall voting experience, with 82% saying they were very satisfied.
  6. Fairness
    • Most (84%) electors felt that Elections Canada ran the December 11, 2017, federal by-election fairly, with nearly two thirds (65%) saying they ran the elections very fairly.
    • Nine in ten (90%) electors trust the accuracy of the results in their riding, with two thirds (66%) saying they have a very high level of trust.