New data offer unique insights into voters

Rob Rombouts // Special to Western NewsPolitical Science professor Laura Stephenson heads a new Western-led partnership that aims to take the pulse of Canadian democracy and improve the health of electoral participation, newly awarded $2.5 million from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

New numbers released by the Western-led Consortium on Electoral Democracy (C-Dem) offer everyone from researchers to policy wonks to the general public the deepest insights yet into Canadian thinking during the last federal election.

Co-led by Political Science professor Laura Stephenson, C-Dem recently released the 2019 Canadian Election Study, a collection of data including more than 40,000 surveys, making it the largest-ever study of its kind for a Canadian federal election.

This marks the first major study for C-Dem, which received a seven-year, $2.5 million Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant in 2019.

“It’s an invaluable tool for anyone studying Canadian public opinion,” Stephenson said.

“This data will be used by researchers around the world to understand the particular outcome of the 2019 federal election; the attitudes and opinions of Canadians about pressing political issues; and the important heterogeneity that exists among subgroups in our society – not to mention how Canadian society compares to others.”

Last year, the C-Dem research team collected both online and telephone survey data for the Canadian Election Study during and then again after the 2019 federal election campaign.

The data and related documentation from both the online survey of 37,822 participants and phone survey of 4,021 participants are available free of charge from the Harvard University Dataverse Project.

Stephenson says the size of the online dataset, in particular, presents exciting new opportunities. Important subgroup analysis is also possible, as there are significant numbers of immigrant citizen, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQ, and permanent resident respondents in the dataset.

Stephenson is joined on the CES by co-investigators Allison Harell of the Université du Québec à Montréal, Daniel Rubenson of Ryerson University and Peter Loewen of the University of Toronto.

The C-Dem network of more than 50 researchers and partners across Canada addresses urgent questions related to political engagement, under-representation, levels of government, the evolution of public opinion between and across elections, and data collection practices. The project, which will coordinate surveys at the national and provincial levels until 2026, takes a cooperative, evidence-based approach to studying electoral democracy.