The Digital Democracy Project is a joint initiative led by the Ottawa-based Public Policy Forum and the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University.

The project will study the media ecosystem in the run-up to and during Canada’s October 2019 federal election by monitoring digital and social media and by conducting both regular national surveys and a study of a metered sample of online consumption. The project will communicate its preliminary research findings publicly on a regular basis from August to October 2019, and will work with journalists to analyze the spread and impact of misinformation. The study will culminate in a final report to be published by March 2020. Both the project’s preliminary findings and final report will be publicly available.

This is the first report from the Digital Democracy Project, a partnership between the Public Policy Forum and the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University. The goal of this report is to provide an initial snapshot of the Canadian political media ecosystem leading up to this fall’s federal election. The project uses data from both public opinion polling and online media analysis to examine the media habits of the broader Canadian public as well as the political and journalistic class, with an eye to understanding the various relationships between media use, partisanship, political knowledge, and concern over policy issues. This initial report is intended to serve as a baseline from which changes throughout the election campaign can be measured.

Key findings:

  • Consumption of traditional print, broadcast and online media remains relatively high across partisan lines. Alternative media sources that cover politics from an overtly ideological perspective are more prevalent on Twitter than among the general public.
  • Canadians are somewhat trusting of traditional news outlets as a source for political news, especially compared to political parties and social media.
  • Exposure to both mainstream media and, to a greater extent, social media is associated with higher levels of misinformation. One key point of vulnerability is the greater tendency of media consumers with strong partisan tendencies to become misinformed with news exposure, especially via social media.
  • The environment has emerged as the dominant policy issue for Canadians, though markedly less so for Conservative party supporters. The topic was also prominent among political candidates and journalists on Twitter. However, other issues that the public identified as important—such as healthcare and the economy—were less likely to be discussed by candidates and journalists.
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