The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion: Meeting with Greg Lyle

On Wednesday, November 16th, the interns met with Greg Lyle, Managing Director at the Innovative Research Group, a national public opinion research and strategy firm with offices in Toronto and Vancouver. As a long-time Tory strategist and communications expert, Mr. Lyle had a wealth of information in the realm of Canadian politics at the federal and provincial levels. It was fascinating to hear his sophisticated analysis of campaign organization, voter behaviour, and the formation and evolution of public opinion.

We had an interesting discussion about recent trends in Canadian politics, including the Orange Wave that swept Quebec in the 2011 federal election. Mr. Lyle opined that Quebeckers didn’t vote for the NDP because of ideology, policy or even Jack Layton’s charisma, but simply because they believed that the NDP had a viable shot at power. On the contrary, he explained that, despite their gains in Ontario’s October 2011, the provincial NDP will struggle to make any further increases to their seat count. This is because Ontario elections are not about the popular vote, but about winning seats, as demonstrated by the fact that the Liberals won 16 more seats than the PCs despite capturing just two percent more of the popular vote. If the PCs want to make gains in Ontario, they need to overcome differentials of 12 points in urban ridings held by the Liberals or NDP.

One final indication of the value of our meeting with Greg Lyle was the numerous recommendations he provided for our reading list. In particular, he mentioned The Advance Man by Jerry Bruno, The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion by John Zaller, and Let the People Decide by Richard Johnston. It was a wonderful opportunity to have met with Mr. Lyle, and I wish the meeting could have lasted longer than an hour. The other interns and I hope that IRG can become more involved with the Programme in the future!

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