Monday, March 7, 2011

Questions About The University of Calgary Students Union Secondary Suite Poll

  Like many Calgarians, I was really surprised when I read through the University of Calgary Secondary Suite poll this week.  In this poll, commissioned by the U of C Students Union, the results claim that 79% of Calgarians support the legalization of secondary suites across the city.  When I first saw the results, my initial thought was that the favorable result seemed rather high, based on the polarizing nature of this important issue.

 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. 
The poll was not taken across all wards ( as they targeted riding's where the alderman was opposed or undecided) and I think that this leaves out a large percentage of Calgarians.

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.)
Once again Twitter has proven to be a valuable source of real time information.  The intent of this post was to get people talking about the issue and at the very least, it has been sucessful on that front.  This is what blogging is all about.

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  1. There is consistent long term support for secondary suites. Here is a poll by SES from the 2007 election cycle which shows a similar level of support.

  2. There is definitely a huge support for secondary suites in Calgary. The benefits outweighs the negative consequences. The city council has been slow in this issue but they are moving in to the right direction.

  3. The secondary suite debate offers pros and cons on both sides of the fence. Good post, keep it coming. I have written a similar post on Secondary Suites pros and cons that I think your readers might find interesting. See link Calgary Real Estate

  4. Only Danielle Smith will open the reigns of free markets like in secondary suites. Only then can we truly be free.