How is opinion research used in Canadian public policy?

How market research helped an association understand the perceived role and use of research in Canadian policy-making

By MRIA, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, a Canadian not-for-profit association.


Improve the collection and use of public opinion research

MRIA wanted to understand how data and information emanating from the market intelligence sector, and especially opinion research, was being used in Canadian policy-making. They were especially interested in the ways that this usage could be improved, either by improving the quality of the information available to policymakers, or the way it was being used.


In-depth interviews

MRIA interviewed the so-called “thought leaders”, experts from various fields with close knowledge of the Canadian government, to gather their views on market and opinion research and the way it is commissioned and used by the government. 39 in-depth interviews were conducted. The participants included current and former senior federal public servants, current and former politicians, including federal elected officials and senators, current and former political strategists and staff, public opinion research coordinators and evaluation personnel, members of academia, representatives of think tanks, non-governmental organisations and national associations, members of the media and international experts in public opinion research.

So what?

Understand the relation between research and policy-making

Five types of empirical information were identified as very important in governance by the interviewees: demographic data, government databases information, socio-economic statistics, expert analysis, and public opinion data. Public Opinion Research specifically was unanimously identified as an important mechanism of governance, and as a practice that reflects a healthy and democratic society, as it keeps the government informed about and attuned to the attitudes, opinions, beliefs, values and concerns of the people affected by national policies.

The study gave insights into the general attitude and opinions towards research in Canadian policymaking amongst people closely associated with that field; it is an important indicator both for people in the research industry as well as, more widely, for Canadian citizens looking to understand how national policies are being devised.