Nearly 1,500 people have completed an online public opinion survey regarding Thunder Bay's proposed event centre.

The survey is a class project designed by students in the school of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism, at Lakehead University.

Professor Mike Yuan said early results show lots of backing for the event centre.

"The aspect that surprised me … is primarily how much support, especially in terms of taxation, that people have for the multiplex,” he told CBC News.

Mike Yuan

Lakehead professor Mike Yuan says he realizes "there's a lot of entities out there who want this data. We don't want it to be used as a political football, but often that may be beyond our control." (Supplied)

The survey also asks questions about how a new event centre might impact things like crime, parking and business.

Yuan conceded the survey is not unbiased because of the way it's being conducted. But he said an effort will be made to factor out the bias when the results are compiled.

"The survey started originally to be a very controlled scientifically defendable process. But after these links got dispersed … all of the sudden everybody had open access to the survey,” he said.

“There's a number of things that we can try to do to make it more representative."

Once the survey closes on April 14, Yuan said he “will statistically weight the data to reduce sample bias so that our respondent profile will be as close as possible to the Census Canada baseline profile for the residents of Thunder Bay."

Survey could help city

Meanwhile, the city has issued a press release pointing out that the survey "is not affiliated" with the city.

"The city acknowledges the interest in the project, including the online survey led by Dr. Mike Yuan of Lakehead University, however wants to ensure there is no confusion among the public," stated city manager Tim Commisso.

The statement says the city is planning a statistically valid random telephone survey of a minimum of 900 citizens in late spring, which will be performed by a national independent research firm. Sample size will be confirmed once the successful firm is in place expected for late April.

"We welcome and appreciate the input from Dr. Yuan and Lakehead University, along with all residents who have taken the time to respond," said Commisso. "However, the city will follow through with its own community attitudes research, honouring the commitment we made to our funding partners as part of the Phase 3 public engagement."

Nevetheless, Yuan said his students’ survey could help the city. He said he doesn't want it to be used as a "political football," but "this data source will potentially help people make better decisions."