Suspicion of manipulation surrounding the presentation of a survey on support for the Quebec tramway

The latest survey commissioned by the City of Quebec on the subject of the tramway continues to generate ink, one month after its presentation. A series of emails, exchanged ahead of the October 24 press conference and released Thursday following a request for access to information, suggests that the mayor’s office influenced the presentation of the results in such a way as to increase public support for the project.

The poll carried out by Léger highlighted 40% of opinion in favor of the tramway, a relatively stable figure compared to the two previous exercises, which calculated support of 41%, in May 2022, and 44%, five months later.

However, the last presentation of the survey took a methodological detour quickly noted by journalists. Where the polls commissioned in 2022 excluded the undecided from its results, that of last October included them without explicitly specifying it, other than with an asterisk and a footnote.

“Among all respondents, 36% had a good opinion, 54% had a bad opinion, and 10% did not know enough about the project to have an opinion,” the fine print presentation stated.

Without counting the 10% undecided, support for the tramway decreased by four percentage points to peak at 36%. Note that the inclusion of undecided voters in the last survey simultaneously increased opposition to the tramway, this time by six points, to 60%.

Emails as proof

The journalists present during the press conference quickly noted the inconsistency and the mayor presented his mea culpa the day after. The story seemed closed, until Thursday, when an access to information request uncovered 92 pages of documents, including emails exchanged between the mayor’s office, communications from the City of Quebec and the firm Light survey.

These show that the main protagonists were aware of the lack of methodological equivalence in the presentation of the different surveys.

“There is a risk of confusion,” wrote Cyntia Darisse, vice-president of Léger Québec, in an email. “We will indeed have to be honest and say that the current 40% is more comparable to 46% [sic] in November 2022,” she wrote in another.

“We can very quickly become defensive with this game of interpretation,” worried the director of communications, Nathalie Cloutier, the director of communications for the Quebec tramway, “and give the impression that we are “playing” with the data so as not to assume the 6% drop… The notion of transparency, she concludes, will be raised. »

Cyntia Darisse agrees with the presentation of the figure of 40%, but suggests the addition of an explanatory page to clarify the inclusion of the undecided. The final word goes to “cabinet colleagues”, indicates a City spokesperson for the tramway, Miriam Bard-Dumont. It is the mayor’s press secretary, Thomas Gaudreault, who decides: “I am comfortable with the addition of this page and an explanation,” he writes. I will maintain the 40% please. »

During the press conference held to present the results of the survey, the 40% remained, without the page or the explanation. This probe came at a time when government support seemed more wavering than ever for the tramway.

Prime Minister François Legault finally refused to give the green light to continue the project on November 8, barely two weeks after a probe which today resembles a sword in the water .

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