TORONTO - The president of the research firm behind a controversial Aeroplan survey is defending provocative questions on immigration and marriage as valuable and widely-used, but said he might change some to save his clients from criticism.
CROP president Alain Giguere said Tuesday he is sad that his client, Aeroplan parent company Aimia, had been disparaged on social media for circulating a survey in mid-March that his company wrote.
"Maybe I will change some of these questions to make sure some PR crisis like this won't happen again," he said. "I am not too happy to see my clients in trouble like that."
In an emailed statement, he added, "we are very sorry if our recent survey questions have offended some people. That was certainly not our intention."
On Monday, Aimia apologized for including questions in a survey on whether too much immigration “threatens the purity of the country,” if getting married and having children is “the only real way of having a family,” whether “men have a certain natural superiority over women, and nothing can change this” and if “the father of the family must be master in his own house.”
Giguere, however, said he stands behind the questions' scientific value and said Montreal-based CROP has used them for over 20 years with prominent companies, including banks.
The questions are beneficial for brands because they can reveal how much the public values immigration or gender equality and inspire businesses to focus on diversity, he said.
Past cross-country surveys CROP has done using the questions reveal the vast majority see immigration as valuable to Canada and most don't believe men have to be the "masters" of their home, said Giguere.
If he changes the questions, Giguere said "sadly" they "will be less powerful" in measuring consumer profiles, but "at least I will sleep at night and my clients will sleep at night as well."
He said CROP always warns survey-takers that the questions they will encounter might be sensitive and "very-rarely" do those answering the questionnaires ever complain.
In one other instance where a client questioned a CROP survey's content, Giguere said his client directed the concerned customer to him and he explained the origins and value of the questions.
"At the end, they said, 'Okay, I am sorry, I understand,'" he said. "We are not there to shock people or promote a neo-conservative agenda at all."
He said it is standard practice for CROP to send the questions it plans to use on its clients' behalf to them for review and the clients approve their release before they're circulated.
"If they haven't looked closely at every question, what can I say?" Giguere said.
In the Aeroplan situation, Aimia spokesperson Christa Poole told the Canadian Press in an email that Aimia and Aeroplan had not properly reviewed the questions, which “don't meet the standards we hold ourselves to in terms of the kind of information we gather in order to provide the best program for our members.”
She said Aimia would be deleting the data it collected and had asked CROP to do the same. Giguere vowed to heed their request.
Companies in this story: (TSX:AIM)