Earlier this week, I finished a represented survey of adults living in the City of Toronto. All the research was done prior to last night’s news that admited to having had an “inappropriate” relationship with a woman who worked for him
This is the first wave of a quarterly study Abacus Data will be doing exploring the views, opinions, and experiences of those living in Canada’s largest city.
Here are some of the key takeaways from that survey:
Toronto residents are split on how they feel about how things are going in the city.
46% are satisfied while 50% are dissatisfied. Of note, those who are very dissatisfied with how things are going in Toronto are more than double the number who are very satisfied. Those living in Scarborough are less satisfied than those in other parts of the city while those living in North York and York are more likely to be satisfied.
Housing, crime, and homelessness are the top issues
When residents are shown a long list of issues and asked to pick the top issues facing the city at the moment, 54% put housing accessibility and affordability in their top 3 followed by crime and public safety at 53%, and homelessness at 35%. Another 27% rated drug use and mental health as a top issue, with the economy (25%), public transit (24%), poverty (22%), and traffic congestion (21%) all getting at least 1 in 5 rating them as a top issue.
There was little difference in reported top issue depending on where people live. But, those living in Old Toronto/East York were more likely to rate homeless as a top issue than those in the suburbs and those in the suburbs were slightly more likely to rate crime as a top issue.
More approve of Mayor John Tory’s job performance than disapprove
35% of Toronto residents approve of the job John Tory is doing as mayor while 30% disapprove. Another 30% say they neither approve nor disapprove.
When asked about his performance in specific areas, he gets good evaluations for managing city services like garbage collection and snow clearing, for working with other levels of government, for working with the city council, and for being open and transparent. A majority or more think he’s doing a good or acceptable job on all of them.
Areas where a majority or close to a majority think he’s performing poorly are housing affordability, homelessness and poverty, public safety, and crime, and traffic congestion and road maintenance.
Reaction to the 2023 City Budget is one of understanding
Among the 75% of residents who said they were aware of the 2023 budget in Toronto, 48% described it as acceptable, all things considered, 5% thought it’s good and makes the right choices, and 27% thought it was bad and makes wrong choices. 19% were unsure.
When people were told that the budget will raise property taxes by 5.5% in 2023, 54% feel the tax increase is higher than it should be while 31% feel it is justified given inflation and the need to fund city services. Homeowners are about as divided as the population as a whole – 58% think the increase is too high while 34% think it is justified.
Mixed Opinion about John Tory’s use of the “Strong Mayor” powers
The survey as residents if they support or oppose the mayor using the so-called “strong mayor powers” that the province permitted the Mayor of Toronto to use. Overall, 27% support the use of the powers, 27% are opposed, and 27% say they neither support or oppose their use. Another 19% are unsure.
Safety concerns causing many to use the TTC less
The survey also explored residents’ views about the TTC and whether recent safety incidents were impacting perceptions about the system and its use.
Overall, 46% of residents say they use the TTC daily or a few days a week. 15% never use the TTC. Younger residents and those living in Old Toronto/East York are more frequent users of the public transit system.
When asked if they are using the TTC more or less often over the past few weeks, 1 in 3 TTC users reports they are using the TTC less often than they typically would.
When asked, unprompted, why they are using the TTC less, 46% say it is because of safety concerns, 32% report not needing to use it as much, and 10% say it is because they are working from home.
Over four in ten residents believe the TTC is pretty or very unsafe while 33% describe it as safe. Another 26% say the system is neither safe nor unsafe. Among those who use the TTC daily, 45% think it’s safe while 37% think it’s unsafe.
When asked whether specific aspects of the TTC have gotten better or worse over the past few months, 58% think personal safety has gotten worse – the highest of any other aspect.
This is our first quarterly survey of Toronto residents so we are unable to say whether views and impressions have changed, but the view of Torontonians about their city is rather mixed at the moment. About half think things are going well while another half think things aren’t that good. The top concerns are focused on housing, crime, and homelessness – three issues that Mayor Tory gets the worst evaluations on.
Concerns about safety on the TTC are likely impacting ridership. About 14% of Toronto residents say they are riding the TTC less because they are worried about their safety and about half describe the TTC as unsafe, including a third of those who use it daily.
The broader concern about crime and public safety is likely growing and will become a pressure point for local, provincial, and federal leaders.
Despite a lot of debate about John Tory’s use of the “strong mayors powers”, the public isn’t as engaged nor as upset as many commentators. 27% support the use of the powers while 27% oppose it. The rest are either indifferent or don’t know much about it.
John Tory’s first few months of his 3rd term have not been without some drama. But his public approval rating is solid, people aren’t rejecting the 2023 budget outright, and people seem to feel things in control. But challenges remain and may become worse if perceptions about public safety continue to worsen.
This survey is part of a new quarterly omnibus survey Abacus Data will be doing in Toronto. For more information about our work in Toronto, please get in touch.
The survey was conducted with 1,000 adults living in Toronto from February 3 to 7, 2023.
A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform.
These partners are typically double optin survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.
The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/3.1%, 19 times out 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Toronto’s population according to age, gender, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.
This survey was paid for by Abacus Data Inc.
Abacus Data follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements that can be found here: https://canadianresearchinsightscouncil.ca/standards/