Jason Disano leads the SSRL

Going beyond the headlines

From stories suggesting rural crime is on the rise, to racially charged language on social media, a turbulent year in the news has left many people scratching their heads in disbelief.

Are these stories and headlines, tweets and posts, really how we feel as a province?

After a six-year hiatus, the U of S is once again taking the pulse of Saskatchewan with a new public perceptions survey, in an effort to accurately gauge public opinion on hot-button issues happening in our province.

“This project, Taking the Pulse of Saskatchewan, provides an important and unique opportunity to collect real-time data that accurately portrays how Saskatchewan residents feel about a variety of issues,” said Jason Disano, director of the Social Sciences Research Laboratories (SSRL) at the U of S. “We may or may not like the data that is presented, but it is reflective of Saskatchewan residents’ opinions.”

Taking the Pulse of Saskatchewan is a comprehensive research survey conducted by the SSRL to document attitudes and opinions on important and controversial issues facing people across the province.

In 2012, it was designed as a telephone survey that took 1,750 respondents approximately 15 minutes to complete and covered a wide range of topics. The revamped project now features an ongoing quarterly survey—with one question—targeting a random, representative sample of 400 Saskatchewan residents.

Undergraduate students hired for the project picked up the phones starting on Dec. 6 and researchers have found individuals are more open and available to participate in the new smaller and shorter survey. It also helps to have the U of S brand backing the survey.

“I think people generally feel more confident and comfortable answering a telephone survey with a U of S student on the other end of the line,” said Disano. “It is reassuring for folks and I believe it is why we have such extremely high response rates to our surveys, when telephone surveys are now increasingly plagued with historically-low response rates.

“It is becoming increasingly important to collect data that is truly representative of the views and opinions of Saskatchewan residents. Taking the Pulse achieves that objective. Because of the quarterly nature of the survey, we can be more responsive to what is happening in and around the province, thereby providing a more timely reflection of what Saskatchewan residents think and feel on a variety of topics and issues.”

The Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post used the new survey data in their Boxing Day editions by presenting it in a way that matters to the Saskatchewan public—telling a story of how residents across the province really feel about a variety of topics, beginning with a question on property crime.

“This (project) is something that is going to continue to grow and snowball over time,” said Disano. “This partnership with Postmedia has created an incredible opportunity and I don’t think there is anything else like it in the country.”

Jennifer Thoma is the media relations specialist in University Relations.

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