Senior Leadership

Michael Marzolini
Chairman and Founder

Pollara CorpPhoto MMMichael serves as Chairman and Chief Public Opinion Analyst of Pollara Strategic Insights. He founded Pollara Strategic Insights in 1980, with an enduring vision of building a unique research firm that helps clients manage public opinion, rather than just measure it.

Michael primarily focusses on designing and quarterbacking branding, advertising, marketing, and public affairs campaigns for clients from every facet of the private and public sector. He provides our clients with strategies and counter-strategies that are driven by a sophisticated analysis of attitudes, perceptions, and behaviour.

Michael is best known for his political strategies in Canada and internationally. For twelve years he served as chief pollster and strategist to a Prime Minister of Canada, and was the architect of the electoral strategies for the Liberal Party of Canada’s three consecutive election victories from 1993 to 2000. Over the past thirty years, he has provided data-driven electoral strategies to some 580 political candidates across North America and Europe, 86% of whom were elected to office.

In his early career, Michael provided demographic analysis to former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and was an apprentice pollster for Ronald Reagan’s first successful presidential campaign. He has also served as media pollster to CTV News, the Toronto Star, Southam Newspapers, Canwest-Global News, Sun Media, Reuters, Canadian Press, and Macleans. Under his leadership, Pollara called the 1988 federal election “dead-on” with a 0.0% margin of error – the only pollster in the world ever to call a national election perfectly.

The CBC award-winning documentary “Ask a Silly Question” describes Michael as “the first of a new breed of Super-Pollsters”, while Claire Hoy’s book “Margin of Error” acclaims him as “having proved to be the most reliable of Canada’s pollsters.” Steve Paikin’s biographical compilation “The Life” discusses how Michael “does amazing things with public opinion”.

In 2012, Michael was presented with the Nobel Peace Prize, for United Nations Peacekeeping in 1975. All UN Peacekeepers who served on qualifying missions prior to 1988 were co-recipients of the Prize. He also holds the Canadian Peacekeeping Medal, the United Nations Cyprus Medal, and a Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal.

Craig Worden
Executive Vice-President

Pollara CorpPhoto CWCraig leads Pollara’s research divisions and the development of our research products, models, and syndicated studies. He provides actionable, insightful counsel to our clients, applying expertise gained over almost 20 years of conducting quantitative and qualitative research for an extensive array of private, public, and not-for-profit sector clients. Since joining Pollara in 2008, he has built an industry-leading team committed to creative, customized research solutions that provide clarity of understanding and direction to our clients. Craig is also our primary media spokesperson.

For Craig, research is not our main deliverable – it is the critical foundation upon which we provide our primary value: insightful guidance and advisory partnership. Involved in the design and analysis of every study, his key activities include leading customized segmentation and motivational analyses as well as infusing insights with veteran interpretation, real-world context, and actionable recommendations. He is passionate about digging below the surface of topline results and helping clients identify and reach their key audiences with a sound understanding of the emotional underpinnings, engagement levels, persuadability, and key drivers of those segments.

During his tenure at Pollara, Craig has created many of our leading research models, including the Dialogue online stakeholder engagement platform, the Catalysts opinion leader model, the RealRep reputation model, the RealCSR corporate social responsibility model, and the NIMBY management model. He has also spearheaded the creation of many of our syndicated studies, covering a range of topics such as family caregivers, electrical utilities, and New Canadians.

As a public affairs researcher, Craig has helmed hundreds of surveys and moderated more than 1,000 focus groups. His research career began at Angus Reid Group/Ipsos-Reid, where he rose to the position of Associate Vice President. Prior to joining Pollara, he founded and managed public affairs practices at Leger and Angus Reid Public Opinion/Vision Critical. He has appeared in print and broadcast media on hundreds of occasions, providing commentary on public opinion and elections. He has also had the honour of being a convocation keynote speaker, conference presenter and panel participant, and author of articles on research techniques and societal trends for such publications as Toronto Life Magazine and the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association’s periodicals. Craig holds a BA Honours in political science from Carleton University, and a MA in political science from Brock University.

Wendy Iwai
Chief Operating Officer

PollaraCorpPhoto_WIAs Chief Operating Officer, Wendy leads the ongoing organizational, administrative, and financial functions and planning of Pollara Strategic Insights. In addition to employing her organizational and management skills, Wendy brings valuable insight from both the public and private sectors to our client support and research teams.

Her public sector experience in the areas of education, tourism, culture and sport was attained through various roles with the Government of Ontario, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and as Strategic Advisor to the Chair of the Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games Organizing Committee. Our clients also benefit from Wendy’s strategic advice based on her private sector business experience in the areas of telecommunications, B2B e-commerce, and law.

Wendy’s commitment to community involvement has included roles on the Executive Committee of Toronto’s 2008 Olympic Bid, numerous charitable fundraising projects, and the organizational team for Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Jubilee Gala in Toronto.  She is a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Lesli Martin
Vice President

Pollara CorpPhoto LeMLesli is a 20-year public affairs and market research veteran with an extensive array of expertise gained through leadership roles across the industry. Although a research provider for the vast bulk of her career, she has also led research departments for major corporations. This experience and perspective drives her passion for responsiveness, partnership, and providing the insights, analysis, and clarity that will make a difference for clients.

Given her extensive cross-sectoral experience, Lesli wears many leadership hats at Pollara. She leads our consumer insights and financial services divisions as well as our health affairs and reputation specialty practices within the public affairs division. Her other areas of research expertise include communications, ad testing, advocacy campaigns, policy development, stakeholder assessment, online behaviour and website usability, brand equity, loyalty, customer experience measurement, and path to purchase measurement. With a client portfolio that encompasses every sector, she specializes in discovering the belief and motivational systems at the root of each relevant audience, and illuminating the message themes that will provoke and inspire these targets, influencers, and stakeholders. Lesli leads NPS Benchmarks Canada, our Net Promoter Score® benchmarking and analysis syndicated study.

Although a fully-rounded, multi-faceted quantitative researcher with a wealth of subject matter and sectoral expertise, Lesli is also one of our senior qualitative specialists. Having moderated more than 1,000 focus groups, she has managed every type of respondent and subject matter. Lesli has masterfully broached delicate topics with challenging audiences – such as bereaving families, disease sufferers, c-suite executives, and youth – navigating through emotion and resistance to uncover the core issues and undercurrents that illuminate the path forward for her clients. Her natural talent and extensive experience make her a qualitative leader that is in-demand and highly appreciated by our clients.

Prior to joining Pollara, Lesli was a senior researcher and account lead at Leger and comScore, and led research departments at Sears, Cossette, and Great Gulf Homes. She has authored research-based articles in peer-reviewed medical journals such as Canadian Respiratory Journal, and her research has appeared in most Canadian newspapers as well as Marketing Magazine. Lesli holds a BA in Business Communication from Brock University.