In 1975, Reginald Bibby carried out a national mail survey of Canadian adults from York University in Toronto, where he was serving as a Visiting Professor in the Department of Sociology, following his graduation from Washington State University. This one-shot survey, bearing the innocuous title of "Project Canada," evolved into a series of national surveys conducted every five years from 1975 through 2005. No survey was conducted in 2010, but in 2015 a Project Canada survey was carried out on-line, simulated via one major survey in partnership with Angus Reid and a number of smaller omnibus surveys carried out in partnership with Andrew Grenville and Vision Critical.
These pioneering surveys have had samples of approximately 1,500 people each. But what has been particularly novel is that each sample through 2010 was comprised of (1) people from previous surveys as well as (2) new participants. As a result, the surveys through 2010 simultaneously produced cross-sectional, trend, and panel data. The 2015 survey offers trend data.
The adult surveys have been complemented by national surveys of teenagers that were completed in 1984, 1992, 2000, and 2008. In October of 2016, many of the items in the earlier teen surveys were included in a special national survey of more than 3,000 Canadians that was carried out in partnership with Angus Reid. This survey was designed to provide a subsample that would make approximate comparisons with the earlier national teen surveys possible.
But the surveys have not stopped there. In late 2020, the generous partnership with colleague and friend Andrew Grenville, the Chief Research Officer of Maru/Blue Maru/Matchbow, made it possible to simulate "Project Canada 2020" through including a large number of items from the PC surveys in a serious of Canadian national omnibus surveys. The result is that we now have 45 years of trend data, spanning 1975 through 2020. Some of the preliminary results appear on the "Project Canada 2020" page of this website. Thanks beyond words, Andrew, for making Project Canada 2020 possible!
The Project Canada Adult Surveys
This "Project Canada" survey research program has permitted the monitoring of Canadian social trends since the infamous 1960s.
Together, these surveys have provided unparallelled cross-sectional, trend, and intergenerational readings on social trends in Canada. The surveys have also been yielding panel data: each new adult sample has included a core of people who participated in one or more of the previous surveys.
Bibby smiles as he recalls a friendly critic complementing him on his pioneering surveys a few years ago by saying, “They’re great! It just goes to show you don’t have to best – you just have to be first!” His surveys represent a first, in that they go back to a time when few current pollsters apart from Gallup were on the scene. But they also represent a first in their scope – providing comprehensive readings on Canadian life which, when combined with their youth survey component, makes them unusually valuable, and certainly among the best available survey research sources for examining social change.
The major funding sources for the Project Canada Surveys have been the Lilly Endowment, the Louisville Institute, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, The Secretary of State, and the University of Lethbridge.
The seven adult surveys have each had samples of approximately1,500 people, weighted down to about 1,200 cases tominimize the use of large weight factors. Conducted by mail with return rates of roughly 65%, they have yielded high-quality data. The samples are highly representative of the Canadian adult population and are of sufficient size to be accurate within about three percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times in 20.
The 2005 Project Canada survey was carried out between approximately the end of July and the end of November of 2005. A total of 2,400 people participated, including a special Centennial Year oversample of some 500 extra Albertans. For purposes of national analyses, the sample has been weighted down to a highly representative national sample of 1,600 cases, permitting generalizations to the Canadian population that are accurate within about 2.5 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times in 20.
As noted, with the help of highly respected sociologist and pollster Angus Reid, along with Andrew Grenville and Vision Critical, key items from the surveys dating back to 1975 were repeated in 2015, producing a simulated Project Canada 2015. And in 2020, Andrew and Maru Blue/Maru Martchbox again partnered with me, simulating Project Canada 2020, providing 45 years of extraordinary and unmatched trend data.
The Project Teen Canada Youth Surveys
As mentioned, the Project Teen Canada national surveys were carried out in 1984, 1992, 2000, and 2008. These four surveys explored the attitudes, values, beliefs, behaviour, and expectations of Canadian young people between the ages of 15 and 19. These surveys probed a wide variety of topics, consistent with the primary research goal of obtaining comprehensive information on Canadian youth. Among the areas examined were values, sources of enjoyment, social attitudes, personal and social concerns, perceived sources of influence, sexuality, relationships, spirituality, hopes and expectations, and the impact of technology generally and the Internet specifically.
The 1984 and 1992 PTC surveys were carried out with youth culture expert Don Posterski. In 2000 and 2008, James Penner brought considerable exprience and expertise to the project in similarly serving as the Associate Director.
Together, the Project Canada youth and adult surveys the findings are extremely helpful in enabling observers to gain a clearer understanding of the influence of social and culture change on individual Canadians, young and old, as well as the country as a whole.
A major area of interest in recent decades has been the impact of the legacy of the Baby Boomers, notably the accelerated levels of both change and choice. The Boomer Factor: What Canada’s Most Famous Generation is Leaving Behind (2006) examined the society that Boomers have played a major role in creating. The Emerging Millennials (2009) summarized and interpreted the findings from the 2008 survey, in light of information also gained from earlier readings of teenagers and adults. But it also focused specifically on how teenagers have been dealing with “what has been left behind,” as reflected in the subtitle - How Canada’s Newest Generation is Responding to Change and Choice.
Each of the 2015 and 2016 national surveys carried out in partnership with Angus Reid involved samples of more than 3,000 Canadians. They included sub-samples of some 300 young adults who were 18-to-23 and around 600 who were under the age of 30. These sub-samples make it possible to explore trends among youth - albeit with a slightly older cohort than the previous teen cohorts. The choice to work with 18-to-23-year-olds was driven by necessity: it has become almost impossible to survey 15-to-19-year-olds who are still in school, given the difficulty of obtaining permission from parents and school personnel.
Many of the items in the earlier teen surveys were included in the 2016 national survey, with many of the earlier religion items included in the 2015 national survey. The 2016 survey was explicitly designed to provide a subsample that would permit approximate comparisons with the earlier national teen survey samples.
These analyses have been carried out in detail in the forthcoming book, The Millennial Mosaic (Bibby, Thiessen, and Bailey, scheduled for release in the spring of 2019).
In the mid-1980s, highly regarded Professor Kenneth Westhues of the University of Waterloo made the observation that "Bibby is assembling a national treasure.” Some 25 years later, his "prophecy" - based on only the first three adult surveys - has been borne out.
It is important that people be able to tap into that treasure. And so, as they become available, the detailed codebooks providing all of the survey items and item by item results are being posted on this website, along with the raw data sets in SPSS-usable form.
All that is asked is that the source of the data be acknowledged when it is used publicly: Reginald W. Bibby, "Project Canada 1975 survey," etc. or, where multiple surveys are used, "Reginald W. Bibby, Project Canada Survey Series."
We hope that you find the findings and data to be interesting, informative, and stimulating!