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2010 survey shows increased public familiarity with the Bank of Canada

Results of a December 2010 telephone survey of public awareness and understanding of the Bank of Canada's mandate and policies.

A December 2010 telephone survey of public awareness and understanding of the Bank of Canada's mandate and policies shows that familiarity with the Bank has grown to 40 per cent compared to 31 per cent found in a similar 1999 survey. A total of 38% in 2010 said they have heard, seen or read something from the Bank recently*.

In keeping with this increase in familiarity with the Bank since 1999, the 2010 results show an increase in the proportion of correct responses offered to questions about what the Bank does and why it adjusts its policy interest rate. In particular, two-thirds of the public (67%) correctly answered a question asking why the Bank lowers rates, citing economic stimulus as the goal. This represents a substantial increase from the 1999 figure of 53 per cent.

Of those polled in the year-end survey who said they were familiar with the Bank, 90 per cent expressed confidence in the Bank's ability to fulfill its mandate to promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada. Nearly two in three (63%) surveyed in 2010 said the Bank's activities are relevant to their own finances and overall economic well-being.

The Bank of Canada commissioned public opinion research firm Ipsos Reid to undertake the 2010 survey. The survey was conducted by telephone among a representative sample of 1,000 Canadian adults between 6-9 December as part of the Ipsos Reid Express Omnibus study. The sample of 1,000 adults obtains a ±3.1 percentage point margin of error, calculated at a 95 per cent confidence interval. Slight weights were applied to the sample in order to ensure it matched the characteristics of the Canadian population by region, age and gender according to the 2006 census. The 2010 survey included the questions used in the 1999 survey, as well as a few more.

Ipsos Reid also conducted an online survey of 1,000 Canadians for the Bank of Canada in December 2010. Although not identical, the online results mirror closely those of the 2010 phone survey. These 2010 online results will provide a baseline for any future online-only surveys the Bank may wish to undertake.

Although the 2010 survey did not explore reasons for the increase in familiarity with the Bank of Canada compared to 1999, concerted efforts by the Bank to increase transparency and improve communications with respect to its actions have likely contributed to the improved results. Certain Bank initiatives introduced since 1999 have engendered widespread interest in the media and in financial, economic and policy-making spheres and have likely helped to build greater public awareness than was evident in 1999:

  • In 2000, the Bank of Canada introduced a new system of eight "fixed" or pre-specified dates each year for announcing decisions on its key policy interest rate, and related economic analysis.
  • The Monetary Policy Report, which was a semi-annual publication in 1999, is now published quarterly.
  • Since 1999, the number of speeches, presentations and media appearances by members of the Bank's Governing Council has increased significantly.
  • The Bank began publishing a semi-annual Financial System Review in 2002, focusing on developments in the financial system and an analysis of policy directions in the financial sector.
  • The Bank has made increasing use of its corporate web site, adding substantial additional data and other content since 1999. Concomitantly, there has been a substantial increase in the public's use of the worldwide web as a primary source of information.
  • The recent global financial crisis has focussed the public's attention on the economy and the financial system. As a key institution in both areas, the Bank and its actions during the crisis have figured prominently in media coverage and financial market commentary during that time.
  • Since 1997, the Bank's regional offices have strengthened ties with the business and financial market community, educational institutions and the general public, helping to increase public awareness of monetary policy and bank note security features through consultations and speaking engagements. These offices also conduct the Business Outlook Survey (400 firms interviewed annually), the results of which the Bank began publishing on a quarterly basis in 2004.

View the full results of the 2010 survey:

*These responses were to a question that was not included in the 1999 survey, hence there is no comparable data from that earlier poll.