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We heard you!

Results from the 2015 Community Survey

Last week, we invited Leadnow’s members to participate in a major survey so we could begin to understand how the community feels about the new political context, and to set campaign priorities for the new year.

Since we launched in 2011, Leadnow has been driven by our community’s priorities, and this moment, with the major shift in Canadian federal politics, is no exception. The results are now in, and we’re really excited to share what we’ve heard.

In this blog post we’ll go through the results of our member survey, and add our thoughts on what the results mean for our work together going forward. We’re interested in your thoughts too, so please leave a comment, or email us at leadnow@leadnow.ca.

 

Reflections on the Federal Election

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If there’s one thing that’s crystal clear from our survey, it’s that the Leadnow community is very happy that Stephen Harper is no longer Prime Minister. While this is hardly surprising, given that a major focus of our work over the last 4 years has been to oppose Harper’s agenda, and ultimately help defeat his government in the election, this serves as a powerful reminder of just how significant the change in government is for our community.

A clear majority of respondents are relatively happy with the overall election results (81% Agree or Strongly Agree). At the riding level things are more mixed — many people are happy, but a significant portion are not happy with their local result. This makes sense — local context varies greatly and some respondents will live in ridings where a Conservative won, or their preferred Liberal, NDP, or Green candidate was defeated.

Community opinion is split almost evenly down the middle around whether or not having another majority government is a concern.

 

How the new government relates to my values

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A large majority of the Leadnow community feels that the Trudeau Liberal government shares some of their values, and will do the right thing in some cases, but that we’ll need to work together to raise the bar in other cases (64%). One in five currently believe this new government fully shares their values, and a small portion believe they are not to be trusted to ever do the right thing.

This suggests there is an important and unique role for Leadnow to play in this new political context, by supporting the government when they’re moving in the right direction, working to improve their policies when there’s room for them to do better, and helping people to speak out and oppose them when they’re taking things in the wrong direction.

As an independent campaigning community, not aligned with any one party, Leadnow is uniquely positioned to do exactly that, putting our members’ views on the issues first.

 

Issue ranking in Leadnow’s three priority areas

 
Clean Environment

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In the overall rankings for Clean Environment, restoring and renewing Canada’s environmental protections for the land, water and air came out on top, with investments in a clean energy economy and a science-based climate plan close behind.

Just looking at first-choice preferences, however, we see that peoples’ top priorities are relatively evenly split between environmental protections, and science-based climate targets, with support for renewable energy close behind.

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This suggests that there remains widespread support within the Leadnow community both for restoring and improving the environmental protections gutted by Harper, as well as taking urgent action to address the climate crisis from a policy perspective, solutions-based approaches to renewables, and through opposing fossil fuel projects like pipelines, tankers, and fracking.

Prime Minister Trudeau will meet with Premiers to develop a climate plan early in 2016, and this meeting could have a huge impact on emissions targets and green energy investment. Given that both of these issues rated as high priorities for our community, we’ll work to develop a campaign to push for ambitious action in these meetings.

We’ll also watch for strategic opportunities to work to renew and restore environmental protections for the land, water and air.

Fair Economy

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Four issues ranked high as priorities for Fair Economy campaigning: stopping tax evasion and restoring higher taxes for the wealthy and corporations; establishing a universal basic income to end poverty, strengthening public health care, and securing a living wage.

It is fascinating to see the degree to which the idea of a universal basic income has risen in profile over the last couple of years, and that we now see that reflected as our community’s second major priority in this area.

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We’re in the early stages of developing Leadnow’s strategy for campaigning for a fair economy, and will use this input as a foundation for our plans. As always, we’ll also need to work closely with people who have worked on these issues for a long time as we work to craft high-impact people-powered campaigns on issues like tax evasion.

Strong Democracy

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Two priorities are virtually tied for first place in the Strong Democracy category: stopping risky trade deals that allow multinational corporations to sue our governments, and passing voting reform to end the first-past-the-post system. More people put Electoral Reform as their first choice.

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There is urgency around both of these issues. The new government pledged to change the voting system within 18 months of taking office, and Trudeau is preparing to make a decision about the Trans-Pacific-Partnership (TPP) trade deal, having promised to consult Canadians. Given the high priority placed on these issues by our community and the urgent timelines, we’re getting to work right away developing plans to roll out major campaigns on voting reform and the TPP in the new year.

Working to repeal Bill C-51 ranked third. More discussion of Bill C-51 follows in the next question.

 

Leadnow’s approach on the new government’s promises: Support or Oppose?

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The results in this section reinforce the general conclusion from question two: our community supports some of the Liberal government’s proposed policies, but wants improvements or a complete reversal in other cases. There is no contradiction here: as a truly independent, people-powered campaigning organization driven by people like you, we are free to follow your direction and work together to support, improve or oppose accordingly.

Our community’s position on some issues is clear-cut. For example, our community supports implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and welcoming Syrian refugees. At the same time, Leadnow’s members clearly want to campaign to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). On other issues — such as the Liberal’s plan to amend, but not repeal, Bill C-51 and the emerging climate plan — the largest proportion of people want us to work to improve the new government’s position. We’ll follow up with more questions for the community to make sure we understand what you want on these issues.

With Harper defeated we have a historic opportunity to achieve lasting change. Over the coming months we’ll be working to develop new ways of campaigning that build on the strengths we built in opposition to the Harper Conservatives, and at the same time reflect this new political reality where there is widespread support for many of the positive policies this new government has promised. Our campaigns will reflect that, while not hesitating to push for better outcomes where possible, and opposing things like the TPP where necessary.

 

Electoral Reform

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An overwhelming majority of our community is either “extremely concerned” about voting reform or “care a lot” about the issue (93%). This is much higher than the general public; a survey of Canadians conducted by Abacus Data for the Broadbent Institute recently found only 48% were “extremely concerned” or “care[d] a lot” about voting reform1.

This result, in combination with the fact that voting reform ranked as a top priority for action towards a strong democracy, confirms that working to fix our broken electoral system should be a major priority for 2016 so we can engage many more people across Canada as the new government consults on this issue to develop their position.

When asked to choose the most important criteria for a new voting system, two criteria which point to proportionality (“The system ensures that the number of seats held by a party in Parliament closely matches their actual level of support throughout the country” and “The system prevents a party that did not receive a majority of the votes from passing laws without the support of other parties”) topped the list by a significant margin.

When Abacus Data / Broadbent Institute asked people who support a change in voting system to choose the most important criteria, proportionality also scored high (although by smaller margins than in our Community Survey)1.

Based on these results, it’s clear that support for a fair, proportional voting system, where the number of seats a party gets in parliament is close to the share of the vote they receive, remains a very high priority for Leadnow’s members, on an issue we know there is widespread support for action. We’ll design our voting reform campaign accordingly, and push to replace our broken first-past-the-post system with a more proportional voting system.

 

How we work together

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Respondents indicated support for a wide variety of campaigns — at various levels of government, on issues, in elections, and through petitions started by Leadnow members.

When asked to express their level of interest in particular types of campaigns, a majority indicated they were “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in each option. This suggests there is general interest in a wide variety of campaigns.

However, some important differences in interest level emerged. Interest level was highest at the national level and decreased for provincial- and municipal-level campaigns. Electoral campaigning received the strongest support of all options presented.

It is likely that these results are influenced by what people have come to expect from Leadnow based on our past campaigns — for example, we’ve just wrapped up a major national election campaign, so it’s not surprising that campaigning nationally, and in elections topped the list. Support for campaigns started by individual Leadnow members, while still well above 50%, was noticeably lower than other options; this may be because we have not prioritized member-led campaigns in our work to date.

Building on these results, we’ll continue to run major national campaigns on key issues, while considering opportunities to help elect progressive candidates in future elections. And, given the overall support for a wide variety of campaigning, we’ll also consider testing more member-led petitions, and provincial- or municipal-level campaigns, especially on the issue priorities identified above.

When asked what types of actions people would like to take as part of the Leadnow campaigning community, the results showed a huge interest in participating in online campaigns (petitions, etc), with significant numbers of people also interested in amplifying messages on social media, attending local rallies and events, writing letters to the editor, donating and volunteering.

Leadnow’s campaign model relies on going wide — engaging massive numbers people through online campaigns — and going deep — engaging smaller numbers of highly-motivated people to take higher-barrier actions, such as joining local rallies or chipping in to help fund radio ad campaigns. These results suggest that our model continues to provide opportunities for engagement that align with how our membership wants to get involved.

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Most people surveyed are relatively happy with how many emails they get from Leadnow, and we’ll keeps things roughly as they are. It’s worth noting that the survey came at a time when we were emailing less frequently than normal, and is also (by its nature) self-selecting of the more highly engaged people in our community. At key moments we sometimes send multiple emails in a week, and email overload is something we try to avoid.

 

Final Thoughts

We’re grateful for the input that thousands of Leadnow community members provided to shape our campaigns in this new direction.

The top-line message is clear: our members are optimistic about the new opportunities for progressive change that are possible with the new federal government, and want Leadnow to work to hold the government accountable to important campaign promises, from implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and holding an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women to welcoming thousands of refugees from Syria.

On other issues — from climate policy to amending, but not repealing, bill C-51 — our community wants us to push the government to do better. And our community wants us to push hard to stop other issues, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) investor deal.

We see part of our role as the Leadnow staff team to identify strategic opportunities when our community can have maximum leverage and impact by taking action together. Accordingly, we’ve identified three key opportunities for action on the Leadnow community’s priority issues coming up in early 2016, and we’re getting started developing major campaigns to roll out early in the new year to address issues that are both high-priority and urgent:

  • Push to replace our broken first-past-the-post election system with a more proportional system.
  • Stop the risky Trans-Pacific Partnership investor deal.
  • Push for ambitious action, including strong science-based targets and large investments in a green energy economy when Prime Minister Trudeau meets Canada’s Premiers to develop a climate plan.

As we get to work developing campaigns on these specific issues, we’ll watch for key moments of opportunity to make progress on other issues identified as priorities by our community — so we’re ready to launch hard-hitting campaigns right at the moment when our community can have the biggest impact.

When Harper was defeated, many of us breathed a sigh of relief, and we share our community’s optimism that this new political climate offers major opportunities to make lasting changes. But we also know that the new government will be under huge pressure from corporations and political insiders with a vested interest in blocking progressive change.

Because the Leadnow community is member-driven, and independent of any political party, we have an important and unique role to play in this new political context — holding the government accountable to follow through on their positive promises, pushing them to do better where they haven’t got it quite right, and standing up against them when they’ve got it wrong.

We’re excited to see what we can accomplish together.

None of Leadnow’s work would be possible with out the support of our amazing half-a-million-strong community. If you can, please chip in a few dollars to help power our work through 2016. Many hands make light work. Click here to donate today.

Sources
  1. Canadian Electoral Reform: Public Opinion on Possible Alternatives (Broadbent Institute / Abacaus Data). https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/broadbent/pages/4770/attachments/original/1448994262/Canadian_Electoral_Reform_-_Report.pdf?1448994262