August 26, 2016

NRG Research Group and Peak Communicators undertook a national online survey of 1000 representative Canadians on May 25-26, 2016 to ask about changes to the way Canadians elect their Members of Parliament. We provided the results to this survey in last month’s Source, but in conversations with a few of you there was some interest in further discussion of implications and what may happen next.

What are some key conclusions from this research and what might happen next?

  • There is strong support for online voting (70%). Elections Canada will undoubtedly be examining the technical matters around adopting an online approach even with high levels of support to ensure this can be done reliably and securely.
  • More than half of respondents (56%) expressed a desire for one of the named alternatives to the current pure First Past the Post system (23% Mixed Proportional Representation/First Past the Post, 19% Pure Proportional Representation, 14% Preferential Ballot). This is a strong case for change. However, if you interpret it another way, 48% of all respondents wanted to retain First Past the Post in some manner – either a pure First Past the Post system (25%) or a Mixed Proportional Representation/First Past the Post system (23%). Through this lens, a case can also be made for retaining the First Past the Post system.
  • The way in which final changes to the electoral system will be approved has been the subject of considerable discussion already and will likely be the source of much debate going forward. From our survey results, we know a majority of Canadians (67%) believe there should be a national referendum on any changes to how MPs are elected. However, the government, as well as some experts who have appeared before the parliamentary committee studying this issue, are of the view Parliament alone can decide upon these changes. Apart from the final recommendation of the proposed system of electing MPs, opinions toward holding a referendum or not will likely be an ongoing topic of interest to monitor.
  • One final note related to our research – it is ironic that we typically choose to ask about voting system preferences using a First Past the Post style of question. In further exploration of changing the voting system it could be interesting and instructive to ask first, second, third, and fourth choices (i.e., Preferential Ballot) to determine the system that will get to over 50% preference.

Dr. Brian Owen

CEO and Chairman