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Seniors' group attacks voluntary census with a voluntary poll

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons has released an online poll of its members, who are unhappy about the planned switch from a mandatory long-form census to a voluntary form.

But the CARP poll is itself voluntary.

On the CARP website, the organization summarized the problem and asked its members:

For generations of Canadian researchers, statisticians, academics, advocacy groups, and citizens, the census has proved to be an invaluable source of information, without which the ability to remain on the cusp of policy design, demographic research, and economic analysis would be radically diminished.

Our census, and Statistics Canada, which analyzes and synthesizes the information, is highly regarded internationally for the scope and rigor with which the information is presented.

The government may argue that shorter voluntary surveys can replace the rigour of the census, but many information based organization disagree. Lets us know your opinion on the matter by responding to this week’s poll.

The poll questionnaire is available here, and the responses so far are here.

Among other things, the poll indicates that only about 20 percent of respondents think the new "household survey" will provide information as valid as the mandatory long form. Sixty-six percent said the new survey is not as valid.

Should the government reverse its decision and stick with the mandatory long form? Three-quarters of respondents said yes, with only 17.5 percent saying no.

Asked whom they would support if a federal election were called tomorrow, 31.8 percent said they'd vote for the Conservatives, with 29.6 percent for the Liberals and 8.1 percent for the NDP. A quarter of respondents were undecided.

Neither the poll nor a Globe and Mail story about it pointed out that, as a voluntary poll, it is subject to exactly the same criticism as the voluntary census form: it comes from a self-selected sample.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor to The Tyee and a member of CARP, but he did not fill out the CARP poll.

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