Impromptu survey gets prompt results

·4 min read

The Temple City Star conducted an anonymous interview this week with a private citizen who was involved in the creation of an initiative titled “Alberta Citizen Opinion Survey”. The individual interviewed is part of a small team who authored a survey in response to the Province’s decision to maintain restrictions rather than move ahead with the “path forward.” This group had heard that “Joseph Schow had been telling constituents that Jason Kenny said 4 out of 5 Albertans are happy with the current restrictions or want more.” The Temple City Star did not have time to verify this with either Kenny or Schow’s offices. Regardless, the group did not believe this statistic that they heard could be true and wanted to conduct their own survey, to test the figure. When asked about the teams training, the interviewee shared that “nobody from the group has any training in formal research methods.”

The survey opened on March 22 at 9:30pm, and closed March 26th at 3pm. According to our source, “the survey was closed because the numbers had tapered off, and we wanted to get data out before the weekend cause we knew people would forget about it… we wanted to distribute responses in a timely manner.” Google was chosen as the survey platform, and the survey averaged 100 responses per minute for the beginning of the next day, and from 6am to 10pm on March 27th received about 32,000 submissions. Only one response was allowed per email address in an effort to reduce people from writing more than one response. Initially the survey was intended to reach the authors own personal riding (to prove their MLA was wrong) and was shared to local community ‘rant and rave’ facebook pages where there could be very vocal people on both sides of the spectrum. The survey was mainly distributed online through Facebook and emails, with some people also texting it to those in their circle. “We encouraged people to share it on community sites rather than political pages to avoid the bias of leaning one way or another,” explains the source. While there was not a random selection of participants as there would be in a survey using the fundamentals of research methodology, one might compare the survey to the kinds of questions news outlets (such as the CBC) use on their websites to poll readers.

“Each question covered something we were concerned about ourselves- we thought about what we could do with the results, and wanted informative answers to take back to our MLAs’’ says the source. Members of the team have “joined forces’’ with a private Facebook group called “Holding MLAs accountable” which has 5.2k followers and has been around since February 23rd. Much of the discussion on the page seems to be consistent with a grassroots conservative movement, which is consistent with the results of the survey. It is unclear if the methods used to distribute the survey impacted the results, even though the survey authors tried to avoid such a problem. “We are not trying to skew the data,” shares the survey author. “We want unbiased data, and we hope people respect us for that. We tried to write the questions so they were non biased so we would get unbiased answers’’. The source also clarified “people on both sides were sharing the survey, but to what extent we don’t know”. When first distributed, the “survey link was put in a place originally where there are strong political views on both sides of the spectrum.” There is a chance that it spread faster amongst rural conservatives who were also unhappy with the news release that did not ease lockdown restrictions in Alberta. When asked why the survey might have spread so fast, the interviewee responded “I think people were angry, people are frustrated with lockdown.”

“The results that are posted are the honest views of those involved in the survey. It was not our intention to release biased data,” the source shared in a writeup. While demographic questions were not included in the survey, like age/gender/income levels, the author shared that “we do know exactly how many people responded per riding in Alberta.” Responses mostly came from rural conservative constituencies, with little response from ridings in major cities like Calgary and Edmonton, and “typically ridings with an NDP MLA responded the least.”

Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star