Top 10 Insights from 2016

Every year, Insights West publishes approximately 50 public press releases on topics as diverse as municipal and provincial elections, bridge tolls, bike lanes, charitable giving, gas-fracking, road safety, housing affordability, employee satisfaction, social media trends, and many other topics. We are pleased to share with you our annual list of “Top 10 Insights” from 2016.

Contrary to popular perceptions, not everyone is opposed to pipelines – We’ve been tracking the level of support/opposition to Northern Gateway and the Trans Mountain expansion and, generally speaking, have found that opinions have been divided throughout the three years we’ve covered the topic.  In fact, the level of support for Trans Mountain has increased five points to reach 45% over the past four months as people seem to be gravitating to the economic benefits while still struggling with the environmental risks.

Winning the popular vote doesn’t necessarily mean an election win – As we learned from the United States presidential election of 2000 and again with the election of Donald Trump as president, an outcome that 4-in-5 Canadians were fearful of, the popular vote doesn’t always predict the election outcome. Days before the 2016 US election, our poll had Clinton at 49% and Trump at 45%, with 6% of the vote going to other candidates. While this was accurate to within one point for either candidate, as well as being one of the most accurate polls in the entire US election, we still got incorrectly labelled as calling it wrong.  When we include our 13 additional predictions from this election, it brings our electoral track record up to 22/22 successful forecasts.

Housing is by far and above the number one issue in BC – Our latest “BC Government Report Card,” conducted in partnership with Business in Vancouver, found that housing continued to outweigh the economy and job creation as the most pressing issue facing the province in 2016. Our recent poll for Resonance Consultancy affirmed this with 74% of British Columbians saying that housing was unaffordable where they lived and 80% feeling that foreign buyers/investors had lead to the higher prices. Our widely covered polls on a potential absentee homeowner tax and on the foreign buyer tax, which found that 76% supported its implementation, had a significant impact on government decision-making in this area.

The recent fentanyl crisis has prompted an outcry from citizens – Our national poll conducted in September found that an astonishing 30% of Canadians have been impacted by addiction in some shape or form.  With addiction ranking among the top three social issues in the country, along with poverty and affordable housing, 84% of Canadians would favour launching an education and awareness campaign about fentanyl, while seven-in-ten would like to see a reduction in the number of opioid prescriptions.

Our poll with Millennials debunked several myths around job satisfaction and loyalty – In a surprise result, we found that Millennials are, generally speaking, more satisfied with their jobs and more likely to recommend their employer than other age cohorts. In fact, the poll also showed that Millennials are generally satisfied as well with their opportunities for advancement, with the proportion of those that report being “very satisfied” being significantly higher than Gen-Xers.

Vacation plans significantly impacted by recent fluctuations in the exchange rate – In early summer, we found that 82% of Canadians said that the declining loonie has had an impact on their travel plans.  From making fewer trips to the USA, to more cross-Canada and stay-cation options, the loonie’s value has had a dramatic impact on behavior.

Social media dominates our lives, and despite the rise of some new ones, Facebook is still the dominant channel by a long shot – Over half of Canadians are on Facebook daily, with 71% using it weekly, and while Millennials have pushed up the usage of relatively new channels like Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat, the total usage of all other social media combined barely measures up to Facebook’s dominance.  When measuring momentum scores, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are the only social mediums, among those measured, where Canadians are reporting greater usage compared with six months ago.

Driving and topics around driving are hot topics – Metro Vancouverites are embracing carsharing, as the number of vehicle options available around the region continues to increase. Our poll for Modo found that 57% of residents acknowledge that the benefits of carsharing, including access to parking during the holidays, would make them contemplate selling their car. When it comes to winter driving, the majority of BC motorists admit to being the worst in the country with almost a third not feeling the need to prepare for winter conditions until it actually snows.

The Liberals made a commitment to the legalization of marijuana with the support of the majority of Canadians, but the process of when and how raises some questions – Strong support for the legalization of marijuana (our last measure shows 62% in favour) has been evident in several years of tracking for us but, recently, questions about where and how people would actually buy it has raised further questions.  Just south of us, our Washington State poll showed that people are generally satisfied with legalization and the impact it has had.

Stability in one prairie province, change in another, but nothing new in British Columbia – The month of April brought provincial elections to two Canadian provinces, and Insights West had the most accurate forecasts of all public opinion firms. In Saskatchewan, Brad Wall once again rode a popularity wave to a majority government. In Manitoba, in spite of having lower approval numbers than what was observed in Alberta’s change election of 2015, Brian Pallister led the Progressive Conservatives to victory. In British Columbia, our polls show approval ratings and voting intentions for Christy Clark and John Horgan have not changed much throughout the year.


Photograph: Mark Ou