In covering campaigns, there tends to be an obsession with horse-race numbers – who’s winning, who’s losing, where the momentum is. There can be value in that, notwithstanding how confusing the variation in different companies’ results has been lately. But what tends to get less attention than it should is why support moves the way it does, which requires better understanding of underlying impressions and trends within the electorate.
In partnership with Innovative Research Group, The Globe and Mail has created a new forum for this campaign called the “Listening Post Network.” Think of it less like a poll than a big focus group: Through an online panel, a network of Ontario voters who have volunteered to participate will help us track what the parties are doing and saying in their outreach activities, and what they think of their messages and tactics.
Rather than focus on overall results, we’ll focus instead on the impressions and opinions of Ontarians who share the same partisan orientation. As parties push certain policies or messages, we’re trying to understand if it’s rallying their own usual supporters, and whether it has any appeal to supporters of other parties or voters who haven’t made up their minds yet.
The first round of this survey was conducted from May 16-22, with a total of 713 Ontarians participating. So it should give us a decent snapshot of what impressions and perspectives were out there in the campaign’s first leg, up to around the point when the advertising blackout lifted.
Of those who participated, 42 per cent self-identified as Liberals, 29 per cent as Progressive Conservatives, 14 per cent as New Democrats, 9 per cent as “other” (including Greens), and 17 per cent didn’t align with any one party. These are folks who might be a little more engaged than your average voter, since they were willing to participate in a rather extensive survey, but effort has been made to achieve a sample that’s demographically representative.
We’ve noticed some pretty interesting trends in the data, and we think it will help understand what’s happening out there, and maybe even what’s seen in some of those horse-race polls. Stay tuned.
Oh, and one other thing. As parties get more sophisticated in targeting messages to individual voters, we want to get as many people as possible involved in helping us keep track of those messages and how they’re delivering them. If you’d be willing to help us tell the story of this campaign by keeping a campaign diary to let us know who contacted you and uploading campaign material, or maybe giving your reaction to ads, issues and events, you can sign up for the Listening Post Network here.