The authors have based the book primarily on data derived from the 1988 Canadian Election Study, for which they were co-investigators. The survey was a "rolling cross-section": a daily tracking of the campaign designed explicitly to monitor electoral dynamics. The multivariate techniques commonly involved in the analysis of campaign data are presented here in an accessible way, as graphs rather than tables. Videotapes of prime time news analyses on CBC, CTV, and SRC outlets, as well as some newspaper commentaries, have been integrated into the survey. This information is contrasted with an analysis of electoral dynamics based on one hundred years of census and electoral data. The authors make a variety of significant arguments about the historical and political basis of the parties' eventual positions on the issue of free trade, the overriding importance of that issue to the 1988 election, the roles of the party leaders, and, perhaps most important, the political impact of campaigns, especially of debates and media coverage.
Letting the People Decide brings the study of Canadian parties into the analytical mainstream even as it supplies a new interpretation of a century of elections.