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Mainstreet Research sets record straight on MRIA decision

Ottawa – Today Mainstreet Research President & CEO Quito Maggi issued the following statement about Canadian polling standards and the Industry Association MRIA.

“Mainstreet Research adheres to the highest internationally recognized standards for quality and accuracy in polling and public opinion research. Recently, the Canadian industry association, MRIA, published its decision in a dispute between Mainstreet and another pollster. That decision is being disputed in court, but it must be made clear that Mainstreet has not been suspended as a member of MRIA, as we purposely never renewed our membership in November of 2016. Furthermore, the MRIA decision is related to an opinion given by myself on another pollster’s work, and does not reflect on Mainstreet’s work in the least.

“MRIA’s decision to publish false and defamatory information about Mainstreet has little to do with the matter in dispute, and everything to do with an ongoing campaign to discredit Canada’s most accurate pollster, Mainstreet Research. We will take immediate legal action to correct the record, but stand on our record as the only pollster that accurately called the outcome of the last federal election, the outcome of the last BC election, and others. Despite our decision to not participate in MRIA, we remain firmly committed to the highest standards that our clients and the public have come to expect from our work, and our results will continue to demonstrate that level of excellence.”

“Mainstreet Research believes in truth. Mainstreet believes in a free and fair expression of opinion. Mainstreet believes in innovation and diversity in the public opinion research industry. Mainstreet believes in fair and free criticism of our work and the work of other public opinion firms. Mainstreet believes in quality and accurate public opinion research that Canadians can rely on. Mainstreet does not believe in censorship, dominance or bullying.”

Mainstreet & MRIA facts:
• MRIA is not a governing body; it is a voluntary industry association, of which Mainstreet is not a member;
• MRIA made no finding regarding the accuracy of Mainstreet Polling;
• MRIA made no finding regarding the accuracy of the Illumina Research poll;
• The only findings were related to MRIA’s opinion of our public comments about the research conducted by Illumina Research;
• Anyone using the findings to cast doubt on the credibility of Mainstreet Research is subject to legal action;
• Mainstreet Research continues to believe that Illumina poll results showing 95-99% citizen satisfaction of the Calgary Police Service are not believable;
• Mainstreet strongly objects to MRIA trying to censor the opinions of its members and others in the industry, in an effort to protect pollsters from fair criticism;
• In order to maintain the confidence of our clients and the general public in our ability to deliver free and fair comments on issues of the day, Mainstreet will continue to abstain from membership in MRIA.

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Background on Mainstreet Research and MRIA

Mainstreet Research was founded in 2010, doing mostly targeted public opinion and market research work for its clients. After seeing the catastrophic polling failures that occurred in Alberta in 2012 and British Columbia in 2013 that shook the confidence of the public and media in the industry, Mainstreet made the decision to make a portion of its work publicly available to re-establish that confidence. Mainstreet was the most accurate pollster in the 2014 Toronto Mayoral race, we were the only pollster to accurately predict both the Liberal majority in the federal election and the NDP majority in Alberta. We also accurately predicted results in numerous other elections and by-elections across Canada.

Throughout, we have provided quality public opinion research to our clients and the public alike. For some time, we avoided joining the Market Research & Intelligence Association (MRIA) because we did not believe that they had adopted appropriate standards. This changed in 2015 when MRIA adopted the internationally recognized ESOMAR standards. Our decision to join the MRIA was guided by a desire to influence reform and discussion on standards that focus on results. We argued that being correct in process but still getting outcomes wrong was not good enough. While other pollsters complained about declining response rates and stampeded towards inferior non-probability methodologies that yielded inconsistent results, we argued for better results. In April 2016, the MRIA standards committee decided to deviate from the ESOMAR code, which led to a prolonged dispute with the MRIA and its board members, primarily those board members who are associates from Ipsos. Despite a reversal of those decisions later in 2016 by the standards committee, prompted by legal action, it became clear that our membership in MRIA was not valued and our efforts to influence reform were fruitless. A decision by MRIA to merge with CAPOR also made our decision not to renew our membership an easy one.

 

Background on Mainstreet Research, Illumina Research Partners and MRIA

In September of 2016, Mainstreet Research conducted a poll for Postmedia on the approvals of the Calgary Police force. Published results conflicted with polls provided to the Calgary Police Commission by Illumina Research Partners. While the Calgary Police Force had been plagued by several high-profile incidents, the citizen satisfaction survey conducted by Illumina showed consistently high levels of satisfaction in the range of 95 to 99%. Despite the methodological differences, the Illumina polls were largely criticized by local media and public alike on social media in the days that followed the Mainstreet survey. The Calgary Police Commission requested that Mainstreet provide some commentary for its members on the differences, and we complied with the request. The controversy surrounding the polls and the fallout resulted in a complaint being filed by Illumina Research Partners against Mainstreet Research with the MRIA. The MRIA convened an adjudication panel that was selected by the Chair of the Standards Committee, an Ipsos Associate. Mainstreet requested that the Ipsos associate recuse herself from that task because Mainstreet and Ipsos had been involved in a prolonged legal dispute over the formation of the Canadian Association of Public Opinion Research (CAPOR) in 2015. Despite that request and clear conflict, the request was denied and the panel convened. During the panel hearing, Mainstreet President Quito Maggi explained that the briefing provided to the Calgary Police Commission was a private communication obtained by Illumina illegally and it could not be used as evidence. Further, he argued that the critique offered in that briefing was fair. The MRIA panel made various unsubstantiated findings against Mainstreet that were inappropriately legal in nature, related to Illumina’s claims that it had been defamed and contrary to the principles of freedom of expression. There were no complaints or findings related to the validity or reliability of Mainstreet Research, only on its criticism of another firm. The decision was rendered without consideration of significant evidence presented by Mainstreet and without an opportunity for Mainstreet to review Illumina’s unredacted results. Evidence presented by Illumina Research Partners included a study conducted by Ipsos Research that corroborated their findings. Similar research done with the exact same methodology in other Alberta communities like Beaumont, were also ignored by MRIA and the panel. The decision of the adjudication panel was appealed by Mainstreet, but the appeal was decided without an oral hearing, contrary to MRIA’s own rules.

 

Background on Mainstreet Research, Ipsos and CAPOR

In late 2015 Darrel Bricker and John Wright of Ipsos Research decided to form a new industry association in Canada, with a hand-picked board that would act as the “polling police” for the industry. CAPOR was founded with 22 members, largely dominated by Ipsos associates, the President & Secretary (and its spokespeople) were the senior leadership of a single firm, Ipsos. CAPOR was founded without any notice to the industry and without disclosure of its rules. Its stated purpose was to provide greater transparency and accountability in public opinion research. By contrast, its formation, rules and processes were opaque, clumsy and unprofessional. At the time, Mainstreet Research expressed serious reservations about the dominance of Ipsos in the association and challenged the new disclosure regulations to the Competition Bureau. Forcing the disclosure of proprietary information by an industry association is one of several “dont’s” that CAPOR violated when it was founded. This resulted in a complaint to the Competition Bureau by prominent competition lawyer Mark Warner on behalf of Mainstreet Research. CAPOR never held an annual meeting as was promised by its leadership during its founding and announced in late 2016 that it would consider merging with MRIA after a vote of its members. That vote never took place according to several members and the status of CAPOR is unknown since its website was taken down sometime in 2016.