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Waste of a Good Poll

Survey FBThe value of a poll question depends heavily on how you ask it. Take this “finding” from Forum Research, as reported by the Toronto Star:

“Ottawa’s tougher rules for…mortgages are a good idea, according to 63% of Canadians.”

That’s an interesting conclusion given the question that Forum Research asked:

“The Liberal government has tightened mortgage-lending regulations, and cancelled the primary residence tax exemption for foreign real estate buyers. Do you approve or disapprove of this decision?”

As written, the question combines two distinct rule changes: the new insured mortgage rules and the banning of the primary residence tax exemption for foreign real estate buyers. Combining the two has likely impacted the responses because a majority of people (rightly or wrongly) strongly support curbing foreign buyers. Even if some folks were not necessarily supportive of “tightened mortgage-lending regulations,” the grouped-in foreigner question could lead many to say they “approve.”

What’s more, the surveyor does not explain how “tightened mortgage-lending regulations” will reduce affordability, a big pain point for young buyers. Nor does Forum Research explain how such restrictions might jeopardize an existing homeowner’s equity. Nor does it touch on the potential economic ramifications of the rules, or even the future potential benefits for housing stability.

“We generally do not provide ‘context’ for fear of biasing the question and for fearing that we are providing information to respondents that the general population does not have,” says Forum Research President Lorne Bozinoff. But that cuts both ways. Had more people understood all of these points, and had the questions been asked separately, the “approval” numbers (for the mortgage changes specifically) might have looked rather different.

Knowing Canadians’ true feelings on one of the most impactful mortgage rules of all time would have been valuable. It’s too bad these pollsters dropped the ball.