Portrait of Canadian Society (PCS)

Detailed information for 2021/2022





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The purpose of Portrait of Canadian Society (PCS) survey series, Statistics Canada's new data collection project, is to provide a better understanding of social issues more quickly, while reducing the cost of data collection.

Data release - September 24, 2021 (First in a series of releases for this reference period)


In order to implement this survey quickly, it will be conducted online only, with respondents who volunteered to participate in the survey series Portrait of Canadian Society (PCS). Each survey in the series will take place quarterly, with collection lasting approximately two weeks. Each respondent will participate in four short online surveys over a period of about one year. The PCS is designed to produce data at the national level (excluding the territories).

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population for the Portrait of Canadian Society (PCS) is the same as that of the GSS-SI. The target population includes all persons 15 years of age and older in Canada, excluding:
1. Residents of Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut;
2. Full-time residents of institutions;
3. Residents of First Nations reserves.

Instrument design

Statistics Canada's Questionnaire Design Resource Centre (QDRC) provided input and feedback for selected modules of the survey questionnaires, while questions for the remaining modules came from other Statistics Canada surveys. Question wording adheres as closely as possible to questions established by the Harmonized Content Committee at Statistics Canada.

The questionnaires follow standard practices and wording used in a computer-assisted interviewing environment, such as the automatic control of flows that depend upon answers to earlier questions and the use of edits to check for logical inconsistencies and capture errors. The computer applications for data collection were tested extensively.


This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

Each survey in the series is administered to a sub-sample of General Social Survey - Social Identity (GSS-SI) respondents who agreed to participate in additional surveys when completing the GSS-SI.

Information about the GSS-SI sampling can be found at:

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2021-03-29 to 2022-05-01: (1st wave March 29, 2021 to April 11, 2021; 2nd wave July 19, 2021 to August 01, 2021; 3rd wave April 19, 2022 to May 01, 2022)

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s).

Error detection

Electronic files containing the daily transmissions of completed respondent survey records were combined to create the "raw" survey file. Before further processing, verification was performed to identify and eliminate potential duplicate records and to drop non-response records.


This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.


The estimation of population characteristics from a sample survey is based on the premise that each person in the sample represents a certain number of other persons in addition to themselves. This number is referred to as the survey weight. The weighting of the sample for the PCS has multiple stages to reflect the stages of sampling, participation and response to obtain the final set of respondents.
Variance estimation is based on a bootstrap resampling method. Statistics Canada's Generalized Estimation System was used to generate the survey weights and bootstrap weights.

Quality evaluation

While quality assurance mechanisms are applied at all stages of the statistical process, the validation and review of data by statisticians is the final verification of quality prior to release. Validation measures that were implemented include:
a) verification of estimates through cross-tabulations
b) consultation with stakeholders internal to Statistics Canada

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.

Data accuracy

Survey errors come from a variety of different sources. One dimension of survey error is sampling error. Sampling error is defined as the error that arises because an estimate is based on a sample rather than the entire population. Sampling error can be expressed through a confidence interval or coefficient of variation.

Response rates
The PCS-IRP survey is carried out in multiple stages, each of which results in some non-response. The table below summarizes the response rate at each stage. The resulting cumulative response rate to PCS-IRP is 3.8%.

Response rates by survey stage:
GSS-SI: 40.3%
Opt-in to additional surveys among GSS-SI respondents: 22.0%
Response to PCS-IRP among panel participants: 42.5%
Cumulative response rate: 3.8%

Non-sampling error
Measurement errors (sometimes referred to as response errors) occur when the response provided differs from the real value; such errors may be attributable to the respondent, the questionnaire, the collection method or the respondent's record-keeping system. Such errors may be random or they may result in a systematic bias if they are not random.

Processing errors are the errors associated with activities conducted once survey responses have been received. They include all data handling activities after collection and prior to estimation. Like all other errors, they can be random in nature, and inflate the variance of the survey's estimates, or they can be systematic, and introduce bias. It is difficult to obtain direct measures of processing errors and their impact on data quality especially since they are mixed in with other types of errors (nonresponse, measurement and coverage).

Non-response bias
The experimental nature of the PCS and its high degree of non-response have an impact on which estimates should be produced using the web panel. Survey weights were adjusted to minimize potential bias that could arise from panel non-response; non-response adjustments and calibration using available auxiliary information were applied and are reflected in the survey weights provided with the data file. Despite these adjustments, the high degree of non-response to the panel increases the risk of remaining bias, which may impact estimates produced using the panel data.

Coverage error
Coverage errors arise when there are differences between the target population and the observed population. Since collection of the PCS-IRP was conducted from April 19 to May 1, 2022, there is an undercoverage of residents of the 10 provinces that turned 15 since August 17, 2020. There is also undercoverage of those without internet access. This undercoverage is greater amongst those age 65 years and older.


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