5 lessons for running and responding to political e-surveys

If you’re wondering where Ottawa mayoral candidates stand on the inter provincial bridge file, check out the results of this survey I just published here at CommonSenseCrossings.com

Here’s 5  lessons I gleaned from the experience of coordinating this survey:

  1. Little fish catch big fish. Early on – our little community group wasn’t getting ANY uptake from the major candidates – but as soon as we had an answer from a credible candidate, we were able to use the fact that that a major candidate answered as leverage to get other big name candidates to weigh in. Even the last straggler finally bowed to pressure that they were the only candidate not to respond.
  2. Be personal. The best answers we got were written in the candidates own voice – in many cases from their own email accounts. They were conversational, and showed that the candidate knew the issue, and was comfortable discussing it. Kind of like what I strive for in this blog!
  3. You don’t need to answer THE QUESTION. The most savvy candidates did not bother answering our slightly pointed question directly  – they sent us a summary of their position on the file, and sprinkled it with their other initiatives. They probably knew that our volunteer organization would publish damn near anything they sent us, just to make sure that we could say we had a statement from all candidates.
  4. Don’t torpedo your own message. One candidate, who is anti-bridge, seemed to treat the survey like a high school essay. When asked “ would benefit from the bridge”, they answered that it would be useful for people with cottages in Quebec. So – two points for the essay response, but zero points for remaining on message. Can you see the headline now: “Candidate X: Bridge will benefit cottagers.”
  5. The margins will distinguish themselves. In our case – two questions pretty distinguished the mainstream from the margins. Just read the responses and you’ll get it pretty quickly.

What’s the most surprising answer a politician ever gave you, and what did you learn?

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