These results got me thinking quite a bit about this poll. I understand that this is an important issue, and affordable housing is a serious issue to university students, but I found myself wondering why the students union was so interested in this issue. I also found it amazing that they would spend a reported $40,000 for this poll as it seems like a lot of money for a student group to authorize. I cannot imagine the student body being thrilled that the SU was paying for a poll that affected all Calgarians, not just students that attend the university.
While many people question the 79% approval rate for the legalization of secondary suites, I am also hearing lots of discussion about the source of the poll. While I believe the intent is honorable, the optics of the poll being slightly biased must be discussed.
- This link ( from the SU meeting minutes here) the VP External clearly states that " if the initial poll data appears negative, then there is the possibility of stopping the poll prior to completion, which will mean a substantial savings."
- Many people online have also questioned why the polling firm, Zinc Communications was chosen, given the close ties between Mayor Nenshi and Zinc's president, Brian F. Singh. In the following link, Mr. Singh is touted as a pollster and strategist for the Nenshi campaign. Mr. Singh is a well respected Calgarian and I assume that many people have no issue with the SU choosing Zinc, but the question is worth discussing.
Regardless of where you stand on the Calgary secondary suite issue, I think its important that you question all sources of information ( including this hack blog) especially when looking at polling results. Especially when the results are used to try and sway the public.
Update: Shortly after this post went live, I had a brief Twitter conversartion with Brian Singh from Zinc regarding the details of the poll. While he understood that I was not questioning his integrity or ethics, as the post was written with the intent of getting people to talk about the poll and its source, he did correct me on a few points.
- The online component of the poll ( 900 responses) were from all 14 wards. ( It appears that the phone survey was only done in the disputed wards as noted above.)
- Zinc won the contract from the SU through a bid process. ( Brian confirmed they won as Zinc had the best methodology and price.)