Nova Scotian’s Online Polling

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Success of Nova Insights’ surveys reflect today’s penetration of web, cell phone

Paul DesBarres, President of Nova Scotia-based Nova Insights Market Research & Consulting, savors the moment his small public-opinion research firm predicted an NDP victory in the recent provincial election:  “No one ever thought we would have an NDP majority.  The major media outlets couldn’t believe it…they wouldn’t trust the online results.”

In the election, dissatisfaction with Premier Rodney MacDonald led to Darrel Dexter’s emergence as head of Atlantic Canada’s first New Democratic Party provincial government.

The success of Nova Insights’ polling is due to a combination of traditional survey rigor with its new use of online survey techniques — a movement which, according to Mr. DesBarres, reflect the ‘tipping point’ that the use of technology has reached in society.

“Today 81% of adult Nova Scotians are online,” said Mr. DesBarres, “and the number is growing fast.  Traditional phone-type surveys suffer because an increasing number of people are on cell phones and not on land-line phones, and in any case they are not as comfortable talking with a live interviewer about some subjects.  People would rather do a survey online, where their answers can be done at their convenience, and in a more considered way.”

Mr. DesBarres also credits his survey tool, FluidSurveys, for providing the flexibility and methodological rigor to efficiently collect information from the public in an unbiased manner.

“FluidSurveys is purpose-built to take advantage of the power of the Internet,” noted Mr. DesBarres.  “FluidSurveys makes it easier and more efficient to conduct an online poll.  It is quick to set up, which is a big advantage in polling situations in today’s fast-moving world of issues and events.  You can easily create branching within the questionnaire and use other powerful options.  And FluidSurveys provides useable results quickly, because of its reporting format.  You can extract meaning very smoothly, by exporting data from the FluidSurveys tool in a user-friendly way.  It is altogether much more efficient.  At Nova Insight we were able to use FluidSurveys right away; it meets all our needs and gives us a huge advantage over rival firms.”

“The seat projection model I use is a complex set of calculations that uses input from the previous provincial election along with regional swings attributed to specific seat results.”  The key differentiator that gave his firm the edge over more traditional survey firms, said Mr. DesBarres, was the online capability.

Several of the firms that Mr. DesBarres ‘beat to the punch’ with his online FluidSurveys of pre-election Nova Scotians were established and reputable survey companies that were prisoners of their own “inability to recognize that the times had changed,” stated Mr. DesBarres.  “Two subsequent companies came close to our survey results but they didn’t have the nerve to go all the way on their projections.  Nova Insights came into the limelight because of our speed but also our accuracy. FluidSurveys allowed us to use techniques like randomizing the order in which the parties were presented in the survey; all these capabilities helped us get accurate results.”

Accuracy was a striking ‘plus’ for the Nova Insights’ election forecast.  “The FluidSurveys province-wide poll ended May 26th, for the June 9th election.  We issued our Voter Intentions press release, predicting an NDP majority with 45 per cent of the vote and at least 30 seats.  They got 31 seats and 45% of the popular vote.  No one ever thought we would have an NDP majority; it was a shock to the other survey firms as well as the public!”

A native of Nova Scotia, Mr. DesBarres worked as a researcher for ten years in the United States.  “You could see the rise of the digital world coming,” he said, “but at the time online tools were less prevalent and less representative.

“Over the years, more people have obtained Internet access, and at the same time have also gotten reluctant to answer the phone — in fact, they have screening devices.  In Canada, a full 13% of the critical 18-34 year old sector of households only has cell phones!

“I’ve moved back to Nova Scotia right at the cusp of the mass adoption of an online culture.  Being a Nova Scotian means that I can adapt the online tools to Canadian requirements.  We can’t just use American survey tools.  The online server has to be based in Canada, for example. The Canadian Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requires that data must be stored in Canada, or you’re not in compliance with that Act.  Many people don’t know that – even government departments.  Again, FluidSurveys is a help, because it is a made-in-Canada solution.

“The FluidSurveys tool also helps against campaigns intended to tilt the results,” added Mr. DesBarres.  I did a poll at one time for a municipality that was considering commissioning a deed-transfer tax — a tax paid by someone purchasing a home or business in the town. The officials were concerned that the ‘live forums’ were not representative.  So we surveyed the residents and businesses online, and were able to exclude the people from outside the town limits, to avoid artificial flooding.  The survey correctly found that people preferred to pay higher property tax rather than impose a deed-transfer tax.

“Using the FluidSurveys tool allows me to give lower-cost solutions, which helps give local small businesses access to intelligence that in turn gives them a competitive edge.  “Nova Insights provides evidence-based services, meaning that it provides interpretations of the data that can yield great insights into the implications of quantitative research.  Our analytic techniques and survey design bring out themes that would otherwise be hidden.  Nova Insights provides its clients with a regular newsletter called “Opinion Pulse Online”, which reports the general public’s favourability toward a company’s brand or organization, and can compare it to others in the market. Clients also get the benefit of context to allow companies to interpret the results as competitive intelligence. Results are available within 24 hours after the survey is completed. Nova Insights’ Opinion Pulse Online is an omnibus survey that allows organizations to share the cost of research by purchasing questions on a common survey.

“We combine powerful software with leading-edge online polling,” concluding Mr. DesBarres; “it gives our clients speedy insight at an accessible cost.”

About NovaInsights

Nova Insights is a market research and evidence-based consulting firm providing services to companies across Canada and the United States. The services provided range from basic data processing to providing cross-tabulations, instrument design, analysis, reporting, or the full range of these services along with overall project management.  From customer or employee satisfaction surveys to likely voter or general population surveys, Nova Insights helps clients understand their constituents better by providing reliable evidence through sophisticated analytical techniques along with interpretation that can be understood and acted upon. Nova Insights provides an independent, third party design and analysis outlook so the client can receive the unbiased story told by constituents.  For more information visit the web site:

Or contact:

Paul DesBarres, President, Nova Insights