Pollster Keeps Tabs On Nation?s Mood

Monday, June 26th, 2017

The Vancouver Sun

Angus Reid started off his professional life as a sociology professor at the University of Manitoba.

But he didn’t last long. Academia was too slow for Reid, whose entrepreneurial knack and a passion for politics led him to take a leave of absence from the university to start a polling firm in 1979.

CanWest Survey Research Group’s first headquarters were above a 7-Eleven in Winnipeg. Reid would research topics on spec, then try to sell the results to corporate clients.

He also offered the Winnipeg Tribune a free quarterly poll, which brought him instant status on the newspaper’s front page. And he worked closely with Manitoba Liberal Lloyd Axworthy, who shared his political views.

Reid didn’t always get along with everybody — he fought with Liberal pollster Martin Goldfarb, who had predicted Axworthy would lose when he decided to jump from federal to provincial politics.

After switching his company name to Angus Reid Associates, Reid was hired by the federal Liberals during the ill-fated 1984 election. But Goldfarb was still working with the party, and Reid said there was a lot of “elbow jostling” between the two.

Reid felt ignored and wound up parting with the Liberals after the election. So he focused on the media, building up his name doing national surveys for the Southam newspaper chain.

Pollsters had been doing polls through a mix of telephone and in-person interviews, which took several weeks to compile. Reid decided to do everything by phone, which meant he could turn polls around in a week.

His methodology had its detractors.

“Rival pollsters claimed that Reid’s emphasis on speed produced shallow results,” wrote The Vancouver Sun’s Tom Barrett in 2001.

“They pointed out that Reid’s political polls were often dramatically different from other published polls. Despite a good record predicting elections, Reid polls could swing wildly in nonelection years.”

Still, his company flourished, particularly after Reid moved it to Vancouver from Winnipeg. In 2000, he sold it to the Ipsos company in France for $100 million.

Reid retired from the company at the end of 2001. But he wound up joining his son’s market research company Vision Critical as CEO in 2004, holding the position until 2011, when he became executive chair.

Vision Critical has become a big success in the tech world, but not without some boardroom battles — Reid left the company in 2014, and his son left in 2016. The 69-yearold Reid now runs The Angus Reid Institute, a non-partisan, not-forprofit research organization based in downtown Vancouver.

© 2017 Financial Post

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