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Uses and Abuses of Public Opinion Surveying on Issues of Identity . Jack Jedwab For Metropolis November 20 th , 2008 . Neutral questions on identity .

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uses and abuses of public opinion surveying on issues of identity

Uses and Abuses of Public Opinion Surveying on Issues of Identity

Jack Jedwab

For Metropolis

November 20th, 2008

neutral questions on identity
Neutral questions on identity
  • Is there such a thing as a ‘neutral’ question in a survey when we examine opinion around identity? We will look at a variety of issues connected to questions on immigration, integration and identity
loaded questions concealed answers and proper controls
Loaded questions, concealed answers and proper controls
  • Challenges around identity include question formulation: specifically loading of responses or put another way suggesting answers to the respondent
  • Respondent Concealment: politically correct responses may be offered where respondent risks acknowledging discriminatory attitudes
  • Putting in the proper and most important controls when doing analysis (age is often crucial but other demographics important)
risk of generalizations
Risk of Generalizations
  • Are categories appropriate

Racial or Racialized: analysis is often broken down by Visible minority or Not Visible Minority (masks diversity in groups)

Language: English, French and Other: Do English and other language groups possess strong shared identity

Immigrant and Non-Immigrant: Each category comprises considerable diversity

Generational Status: Obsession with 2nd generation presumes equal start but is that really fair

using ambiguous terms or concepts
Using ambiguous terms or concepts
  • Are the terms of questions explained
  • Canadians feel that they know the meaning of terms however questions about multiculturalism are often no more than a euphemism that help us know if the word resonates positively or negatively
  • Few people know what social cohesion means hence it is rarely included in a survey question nor is the term interculturalism employed
limits on measuring public opinion on issues of identity
Limits on Measuring Public Opinion on issues of Identity
  • Often we presume a degree of knowledge on the part of the respondent which is unwarranted
  • We rarely inquire into the knowledge of the population around a specific issue before forging ahead with questions
  • Often identity questions require certain built in assumptions. On identity questions many analysts believe choices must be imposed (you’re with or against something), you’re an ethnic or a Canadian first, you’re Catholic or Protestant, etc.
  • Mixed identities make forced choices increasingly difficult to impose
voting behavior
Voting behavior
  • Ethnic diversity survey and many other surveys that inquire into voting intentions and ask whether one either voted in a previous election or intend to vote in a forthcoming election are generally 20 points above voter turnout. Hence people exaggerate intentions. Gaps between what we say we will do and whether we actually do it.
coming to our census
Coming to Our Census
  • The census tells us how many people self-identify with an ethnic group or groups or visible minority or religious group. But it does not tell us how important these expressions of identity are to the population and how they get manifested. To determine this StatsCan does special or post-censal surveys.
  • Ethnic Diversity Survey 2002 (is it a big public opinion survey?)
  • Many identity are questions soft or ‘spongy’ something which StatsCan is leery about
integration rarely defined
Integration: rarely defined
  • Typical question from National Polling Firms:

Some people say that immigrants and minority ethnic groups should blend into Canadian society and not form a separate community. Other people say that immigrants and minority ethnic groups should be free to maintain their religious and cultural practices and traditions. Which one of these two points of view is closest to your own?

Result - Canadians usually split half way

integration more nuanced
Integration More nuanced

The relationship between maintaining one’s customs and traditions and/or joining the mainstream is more than nuanced than suggest the two propositions generally submitted by pollsters. A recent national survey (October 4-10, 2007) of 1500 Canadians conducted by Leger Marketing for the Association for Canadian Studies suggests that the traditional dichotomy-the either/or option of maintaining customs or mixing is not supported by public opinion which to a significant extent thinks that both are possible.

the nuance of integration
The nuance of integration
  • Both mixing and preservation of customs and traditions are supported by two-thirds of the population. This finding should not be surprising as it reflects the experience of many immigrants and their descendents, who very often give up some traditions, maintain others and to varying degrees mix and interact with the broader population.
is it a choice
Is it a choice?
  • Some 67% of Canadians agree that society should encourage mixing various cultures to form a new national community.
  • Some 64% disagree that society should urge immigrants to give up their customs and traditions and become more like the majority
  • Some 72% disagree that society should discourage minorities from forming communities and urge them to abandon their cultural practices
  • Some 67% agree that society should try harder to accept minority groups' customs and traditions
integration opposing gender and multiculturalism
Integration: Opposing Gender and Multiculturalism

Question masks gender rights violation: Obviously few Canadians disagreed

Some immigrant and minority ethnic communities have very traditional practices and beliefs when it comes to the role and rights of women. Some people say Canada should accept and accommodate these traditional beliefs about the rights and role of women. Other people say that immigrants and ethnic minorities should adapt to mainstream Canadian beliefs about the rights and role of women. Which one of these two points of view is closest to your own?

charter of rights does not reflect canadian values
Charter of Rights Does not reflect Canadian Values?
  • On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights the President of SES research Nick Nanos released a survey analysis under the heading the “Charter values don’t equal Canadian values”. Unfortunately he provides no meaningful evidence for this assertion since the survey he conducts puts no such question directly. How therefore does Nanos arrive at this conclusion?
nanos no no s
Nanos No No’s
  • He does so by asking two questions which permit no such causal relationship to be established: (1) “based on what you know, would you say that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada is moving our society in the right direction or in the wrong direction?” Answer: nearly six in ten Canadians agree that the Charter is moving the country in the right direction. (2) top of mind question as to why it moves the country in either direction inviting over thirty unprompted responses as grouped by Nanos. On this basis he concludes that the Charter is by no means central to Canadian identity as amongst its supporters when “unprompted” only 5.3 percent, one Canadian in 20, thought the Charter “makes Canada a great country”.
more no no s
More No No’s
  • Among those who said the Charter was moving the country in the right direction, only 3.1 percent said it because it “Reflects our values”. Hence his conclusion that it doesn’t reflect our values Following Nanos “logic” it might be assumed that some 97% of Charter supporters don’t think that it reflects Canadian values. He does not suggest that the 29% saying that the Charter of Rights “protects rights and freedoms” (the most common response) and the 16% saying “it works” implies that a substantial majority believe it neither works nor protects rights? Those who are supporters of the Charter needn’t worry however because only 10% of those saying the Charter goes in the wrong direction say people have too many rights, 9% say it divides society/undercuts Canadian identity and 15% say it doesn’t work. This is very reassuring news for Charter supporters as only small shares of its critics when unprompted say people have too many rights, the Charter doesn’t work and that it divides society or undercuts Canadian identity.
environics survey of muslims 2006
Environics Survey of Muslims 2006
  • Would you say you are very, somewhat, not very or not at all PROUD to be Canadian?
  • 73% Very proud and 21% somewhat proud
  • Do you think of yourself first as a Canadian or first as a Muslim?
  • 56% Muslim, 23% Canadian and 16% both Equally
reitz what s more important self identification or belonging to canada
Reitz: what’s more important self-identification or belonging to Canada
  • Reitz contends that self-identifying as Canadian more important than the sense of belonging to Canada Presumes that low Canadian identification is connected to high ethnic retention. But often responses to identity questions are horizontal. People who rate themselves as 4 or 5 on a five-point scale on identity questions do the same for other identity scale based responses
immigration how many is too many
Immigration: How Many is Too Many
  • Polls commissioned by the federal government have attempted to test awareness about the numbers of immigrants coming to Canada annually and then proceeded to ask a question about the levels. When asked, some 95% of Canadians say they do have an idea of the approximate percentage of people in their neighborhood that are immigrants.Surveys done by Ipsos in October 2005 and November 2006 reveal that some one in five Canadians (22%) believe that Canada allows entry of fewer than 150,000 immigrants annually. Two in five (39%) believe the government allows in between 150,000 and 249,000 immigrants annually, while one in four (24%) say the government allows in between 250,000 and 499,000 annually. Fewer than one in ten (6%) believe Canada allows more than 500,000 immigrants to enter Canada annually. Those who are most likely to say there are between 150,000 and 249,000 immigrants coming to Canada annually include those who say that about the right number of immigrants are coming to Canada (44%), compared to those who say there are too many (34%).
knowing the numbers makes for some opinion shift
Knowing the numbers makes for ‘some’ opinion shift
  • What happens to public opinion when questions on immigration levels are preceded with actual numbers? In this regard in January 2006, Ipsos indicated that Canada accepted about 225 000 immigrants annually and when questioned on this basis 44% declared the number too high, 34% said it was about right, 10% said it was too low and 12% did not express an opinion. Thus the revelation of the number nearly inverts the respective percentages regarding immigration as “too high” and “about right”. In other words, there was a shift of opinion with a certain percentage changing from “about right” to “too high”.
how specific should knowledge be
How Specific should knowledge be?
  • Survey-November 3rd to 19th, 2006. Three in ten Canadians (29%) are aware of the backlog (refugees) for people waiting to come to Canada. Is that a high figure or low. Much depends on the bar that one establishes when it comes to such knowledge.
knowledge of canada s history
Knowledge of Canada’s History
  • Dominion Institute on Knowledge of History regular July 1 surveys reveal that Canadians don’t sufficiently know-based on the DI bar the country’s history. But ACS-Leger Marketing survey reveals that when asked to self-evaluate their historic knowledge they rank themselves very high. In other words Canadians don’t think they are ignorant.