Do Canadians Think Mayors Are Powerful?

In October 2015, Ipsos Public Affairs surveyed more than 12,000 Canadians about their perceptions of mayoral power in Canada.

Survey respondents were asked whether they agree with the statement, “Canadian mayors have the power to make things happen in their communities.” Responses were measured using a Likert scale (a list of options designed to capture the intensity of a response).

The overall finding was that Canadians, generally, believe that our mayors have the power to make things happen in our communities.

In fact, nearly three in four people (72%) agreed with the statement while about one in five disagreed (22%).

  • Strongly agree – 17.0%
  • Somewhat agree – 55.1%
  • Somewhat disagree – 17.1%
  • Strongly disagree – 4.9%
  • Don’t know / not sure – 5.9%

The survey found a few interesting patterns. Certain groups tend to view mayors to be more powerful, such as women, younger people and recent immigrants. Perceptions about mayoral power vary by province, with the most affirmative responses in Alberta and PEI and the lowest in Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Some variables seem to have little relationship with perceptions of mayoral power, including income, employment status, education, union membership, visible minority status, marital status and sexual orientation.

Perhaps the most interesting finding is with respect to city size. People living in Canada’s largest cities are most likely to believe that their mayors hold power.

Why is this? Do big city mayors actually have more power, or is it just a perception because they tend to be more well known public figures?

Unfortunately, there is lots we don’t know about what Canadians think about mayors. We don’t know how powerful people view mayors to be are compared to other types of political leaders. We don’t really know what “things” Canadians expect their mayors to “make happen” in our communities. While there is data about how Canadians feel about individual mayors (polling data, election results), we have little information about the perceptions and expectations Canadians hold for the role itself.

Sometimes having more questions than answers is a great place to start.

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