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Public Opinion on School Board Trustees in the Early 1990s

By: Jennifer Peers

The school board trustee is a locally elected member of the public and advocate for education. While people vaguely know what a school board trustee is, most may not realize the amount of influence that these individuals have in decisions related to schools. Some of the responsibilities of a school board trustee include assisting in the development of the school’s strategic plans, holding the school accountable to its strategic plans, helping to determine the allocation of resources and creating goals for student’s wellbeing and academic achievement.

We collected nine Canadian survey questions from 1993 to 1997 on the topic of school board trustees. The survey questions and corresponding data have been shared on Open ICPSR for those interested in the data. One of the conclusions that can be made based on the collected data, is that the issue of whether to have school board trustees is divisive. For instance, respondents were asked if they think schools should continue to be governed by school board trustees or whether they should be governed by a volunteer or unpaid council of parents and community members who are elected by an annual meeting of local residents? The results of this survey for 1993 and 1995 show that respondents were closely split on this issue

Question: In most places in Canada, schools are governed by school board trustees who are elected by local voters in regularly scheduled elections. Do you think that schools should continue to be governed this way or would you prefer schools to be governed by a volunteer, unpaid council of parents and community members, who are elected in much the same way as ratepayer executives, that is, by those who attend an annual meeting of local residents?
Answer Options:  1993 n=2001  1995 n=2037
Continue to be governed by elected school trustees47%45%
Governed by volunteer, unpaid council of parents and community members42%45%
Don’t know/Not applicable11%10%

The consistent split between the two years is evidence that there is a number of people who want to continue to have the school board trustee position and a relatively similar number of people who would prefer for schools to have an elected volunteer council made up of parents and community members. The findings from this survey also correlate with a survey question asking the respondents if they feel their school board trustee does a good job or poor job of representing their interests on education issues. The results of this survey were not as equally split but reflect a division amongst people on the issue of school board trustees with 58.9% of respondents saying they do a good job and 41.1% saying they do a poor job.

Like the public servant, the school board trustee is growing increasingly subject to scrutiny, as the public has begun to demand more accountability and transparency. A simple scan of the recent news is evidence of that fact, with multiple school board trustees resigning or being removed from their position for issues such as racial discrimination. As these conversations continue to be had, it will be interesting to see if the issue of whether to have school board trustees continues to be divisive.

Ethical Investors in Canada

By Jennifer Peers

Ethical investing has been around for over a century, dating back to 18th century Quakers (Rayer, 2017). However, the demand for stocks that reflect the values of investors has become more prominent with issues such as global warming becoming more exacerbated over time. Accompanying the growing demand for ethical investments are a whole slew of new terms for it, including; socially responsible investing, impact investing, environment, social and governance investing, sustainable investing and green investing among others.

We collected survey questions from 1994 to 2019 to see how Canadian’s feel about ethical investing. We identified fifty survey questions related to ethical investing. The survey questions and corresponding data have been shared on OpenICPSR for those interested in the data.

Several interesting observations emerged from the data collected. In particular, a data set from 2007 to 2011 appears to show a decline amongst Canadians over the years, in volunteering, donating, and ethical investing 

One reason for this decline could be the 2008 recession which financially devastated the global economy and many consumers along with it. During times of financial hardship, charitable giving typically declines. As one Stanford University article put it, “in 2009 the economic downturn of 2008 has given rise to one of the largest year-over-year declines in charitable giving since the late 1960s” (Reich & Wimer, 2012).

The collected data for these years also demonstrates that behaviors such as donating to charitable causes, boycotting a company on ethical grounds, and buying a product or service because of an established link to a charitable organization are more prevalent in Canada than ethical investing. This suggests that this practice is still relatively unfamiliar to Canadian consumers despite it being around for some time. Correspondingly, one survey found between 2017-2019 that most Canadians have heard about responsible investing but know little or nothing about it.

Question: To what extent are you knowledgeable about responsible investments that consider ESG factors?

Year I have heard about responsible investing but know little or nothing about it
2017 54%
2018 46%
2019 49%

While knowledge on ethical investing may be limited for many Canadians, their desire for more ethical investing opportunities is clear from the data. A recent Ipsos poll found that 63% of Canadian investors are interested in starting or building their portfolio of ethical investments. This increasing demand for investments that align with investors values will require more resources and supports from Canada’s banks and investment companies.

Tracking Public Opinion: Ontario Election Wcalc Results

By Suhani Singh

The previous Wcalc blog discussed the results generated from compiled federal polling data from November 7, 2015 to May 4, 2019. We discovered that our results were not consistent with other polling trackers in terms of calculating popular support percentage for the People’s Party of Canada and “Other Party” support which were overestimated. However, it did a satisfactory job in estimating Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Bloc, and Green Party Support. Since the federal polling data is just an estimate at this time with no election results to compare to, we wanted to test Wcalc once more with 2018 Ontario election polling data before we completely disregarded the Wcalc program for our polling calculation purposes.

We ran the overall Ontario polling data collected from March 11 to June 6 through Wcalc. The goal was to compare the Wcalc results to the real election results to test the programs ability to model changes in public opinion toward provincial parties over a short period of time. The expectation was that Wcalc would create a clearer picture of election results, as it proved successful at predicting the 2015 federal election results.

For the purposes of running the data in Wcalc, we removed the Green Party and “other party” polling data from Ipsos and Leger because the Green Party was not asked as a separate answer for respondents, thus inflating the “other party” category and giving us no Green Party data.

 The table below compares the actual percentages of the popular vote from the 53rd Ontario general election with Wcalc the final predicted results based on compiled polling data. It is clear that the Wcalc results were significantly different from the election results.

Party Election results Wcalc results
Conservatives 40.6% 36%
Liberal 19.3% 14.9%
NDP 33.7% 41.7%
Green Party 4.6% 5.7%

The Conservatives and NDP had the most shocking results as their numbers were far from reality and seem like they should be switched with one another. The Conservatives were off by 4.6% scoring less than what they actually received in the election while NDP support was inflated by 8% in Wcalc from the real numbers. Had these results from Wcalc been released before the election to predict the outcome, it would have wrongly predicted an NDP victory.

Comparing our predictions to CBC Poll Tracker and Wikipedia, we can see how different and skewed the Wcalc results are when predicting election results based off of poll averages. The two other predictions were much closer to the actual results of the popular vote as indicated in the chart below.

The time series generated by Wcalc is shown in the graph below. It is evident from the graph that the NDP takes a bit of a jump during the campaign period, followed by a slight drop, and then emerges on the top with 41.7%. Conservative support declined a little and then gradually increase to 36%. The prediction for Liberal Party was 4.4% lower than the actual results and 1.09% higher for the Green Party. The Green Party difference was not significant and fell within a +/-1% margin of error.

The scatter plot graph for Ontario shows a neck to neck race between the Conservatives and the NDP. Conservatives can be seen polling close to 40% with NDP just slightly under. Wikipedia’s graphical analysis predicted results closer to actual election results with a margin of only +/-2%. Wikipedia used local regressions for smoothing the data, therefore, projecting results closer to the actual election results.

The data from WCalc did not match the election result for PC and NDP. The Dyad Ratio Algorithm that Wcalc is based on overestimated the trend of NDP support and while underestimating PC support.

These results were disappointing and have caused to reconsider the use of Wcalc for predicting elections. While the research evidence suggests Wcalc is effective at modeling policy mood, we will no longer be using it to predict election results.