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British Columbians have nearly all (84%) experienced a robocall, with nearly half (42%) receiving one or more a week. Even though nearly all (91%) say they are opposed to the practice, the majority (51%) have responded to at least one call in the past.

Vancouver, BC – A recent Insights West online poll surveyed 402 BC adults regarding automated calls (or “robocalls” as they are sometimes referred to) and found that they are a very common occurrence in households across our province.

Nearly all BC adults (84%) have experienced a robocall at some point in the past and 42% receive one or more calls a week, with two-thirds (67%) receiving one or more calls on a monthly basis. All households are susceptible, as the receipt of calls does not vary by gender or age.

Of the eight different types of robocalls tested, those informing recipients about a prize (68%) is most often experienced, followed by telemarketing calls for a business (48%) and what consumers believe to be legitimate marketing research surveys (45%). Political messages (42%) and telemarketing disguised as a survey (42%) are also common.

But are these robocalls effective for the organizations that author them? It seems the level of success varies highly by the type of call, but that overall, they are reaching a large number of British Columbians. Our poll found that fully half (51%) have picked up at least one call and complied with instructions. Participation is just slightly stronger among females (54% versus 47% of males) and older British Columbians (55% among those 55 years + versus 49% of those under that age).

Participation in what British Columbians believe to be a “legitimate” market research survey is the most widespread action taken by call recipients (46%), virtually at the same rate as the proportion who have ever received this kind of call. This means that at one point or another, pretty close to all British Columbians who have been asked to take a survey via an automated call have at one time or another complied and completed such a survey. Further, most participants (31% of British Columbians, or two-thirds of those who have taken one) report having taken a survey this way more than once, suggesting a repeated willingness to participate.

Insights West does not use automated research surveys or endorse their use. We believe that this methodology is intrusive and unfriendly for respondents and generally does not produce good research results. The method offers no ability to qualify who is participating in the survey in the household, and generally suffers from very poor response rates. Instead, the vast majority of our research (including this poll) relies on the use of a randomly recruited, online panel of consumers who have agreed to participate in surveys and are paid incentives for each survey they complete. Our panel of nearly 10,000 British Columbia and Alberta adults allows us to ensure that our sample of respondents is balanced and representative of the general population to known population parameters.

The other concern robocalls raise is that they can tarnish the reputation of legitimate marketing research, as evidenced by our poll’s findings that participation in telemarketing disguised by a survey was also very high, with nearly one-third (31%) having done so in the past. Compared to what they consider “legitimate” market research surveys, only about half (15%) participated more than once, apparently learning by their experiences in the past. Participation in the remaining activities tested is lower with little repeated participation. For example, while 9% have tried to redeem a prize, only 1% has done so more than once.

“Results provide compelling evidence why companies use robocalls since a large number of British Columbians are willing to participate,” comments Catherine Dawson, Senior Vice President, Insights West. “Given the low relative cost of each call made, if even a small proportion of us comply, it is to these companies’ advantage to use this tool in the future.”

When asked their overall support or opposition to robocalls/automated telemarketing calls, opposition entirely dominates, with 91% opposed, 74% strongly opposed (only 2% are somewhat in favour and 7% are neutral). Opinions are fairly universal, with opposition crossing age and gender lines.

And who do British Columbians feel should be responsible for governing the rules around robocalls/automated telemarketing calls? While there isn’t a consensus, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) gets the most votes (40%) followed by the federal (27%) and provincial governments (14%). (A small minority (7%) believes telephone companies should be responsible, 6% individual consumers, 3% other and 2% that no one needs to be responsible).

“In keeping with the CRTC’s current responsibility for the do-not-contact list in Canada, it seems that British Columbians see that organization as being best poised to take on governing robocalls in general,” says Dawson.

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary and has eight full-time and five part-time employees.

Results are based on an online study conducted from April 29 – May 2, 2013, among 402 residents of BC aged 18+ who are Your Insights panel members. is Insights West’s in-house access panel offering on-demand samples for both clients and research suppliers looking for Western Canadian populations. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for BC for age and gender. While statistical margins of error are arguably not applicable to online panels/online studies of this nature, we have assumed that the same margins of error apply as if it were a true unweighted random probability sample with a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty. See the detailed data tabulations.

For further information, please contact:

Catherine Dawson
Senior Vice President, Insights West

Photograph: Thomas Chung