Dozens of Canadians will be providing minute-by-minute feedback for each statement in Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s upcoming budget speech, in a relatively novel effort by the Liberal government designed to help craft its budget sales job.
In cities outside Ottawa, carefully selected Canadians will each be given an electronic dial to register in real time their approval or disapproval of each measure that Morneau announces, on a scale of zero to 100.
The so-called dial-testing technology, quietly rolled out for a trial run in the 2016 budget, is being expanded for the next budget, expected next month.
‘Feelings are just as important as facts’
– David Valentin, executive vice-president, Mainstreet Research
“The research was a successful tool to help develop communications products following the budget day announcement,” says a Finance Canada document authorizing this year’s plan, obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.
“The research will help to assess and confirm the development of communications following budget announcement in 2017.”
Versions of the technology, which registers observers’ visceral, instant reactions to debates and other live events, date back to the 1930s.
Sometimes called “continual response,” “real-time response,” “moment-to-moment research,” or just “dial-testing,” the technology first gained widespread attention in 1987 when CNN began using it for political debates, televising the changing results in an often mesmerizing graphic.
Used in mock trials
Dial testing has since remained a standard feature of political debates, including Canada’s Conservative leadership forums where a non-televised, non-public version was rolled out to monitor debates in Moncton, N.B., Quebec City and Saskatoon.
The computerized technology has been commonly used to fine-tune consumer-product commercials. Law firms have also used dial-testing for mock trials, to help prepare legal strategies for real arguments…