Background & Research Objectives

The City of Toronto Election Services Office commissioned Ipsos Reid to conduct a survey of electors eligible to vote (i.e. “electors”) in the 2014 City of Toronto municipal election. The primary objective of the survey was to measure perceptions of the voting experience and gather feedback on the voting process and procedures including any barriers to voting. Specifically, the survey was designed to examine the following:

  • stated reasons for voting/not voting
  • experience voting including reported barriers or problems with voting
  • knowledge of the voting process and available options
  • awareness and ratings of accessible services provided by the City
  • sources of voting information and recall of city advertising

In order to gather useful feedback on awareness and ratings of the accessible services provided by the City, as well as compare the experiences of disabled electors against non-disabled electors, the City sought to over-sample the number of electors with a disability participating in the survey.

Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted using two modes: online and telephone.

The methodology and sample frame was designed to achieve a representative sample of n=800 electors (n=400 via online using Ipsos Reid’s household panel and n=400 via telephone using random-digit-dialling). A sample of 800 is a fairly robust sample size for a population of the City of Toronto. To help put this in context a sample of 1000 is commonly used to accurately represent the population of Canada (35 million). Larger samples have diminishing value – the margin of error does not improve in proportion to adding more people. In order words, the effect of adding more people becomes smaller and smaller.

In order to gather feedback from a large enough sample of electors who have a disability, the online version of the survey was also emailed to the City’s network of disabled individuals and advocacy associations to be distributed to their clients or members. This version of the online survey was available in standard and screen reader compatible formats. As well, a TTY-compatible 1-800 inbound survey line was provided to anyone wishing to complete the survey via telephone instead of online.

In total n=874 electors completed the survey. This includes n=180 electors who identified themselves as having a disability (coming from either the representative sample or the outreach sample) and n=694 without a disability. The sample of 180 is reasonably large to measure the City’s disabled electors and is larger than the proportionate size of the population. The latter group has been weighted by age, gender, region, income, and the official voter turnout figure (54.7 per cent) to ensure it reflects the population. No weights have been applied to the sample of electors with a disability.

Survey Methodology: Eligible Voters with a Disability

Below is the breakdown of electors who indicated having a disability.

Note: In 2010, the sample of electors with a disability was limited to those with a physical/mobility disability, being deaf or blind. In 2014 a broader definition was used. Comparisons made between the results among the broader definition and 2010 definition have shown no significant differences in opinions and thus there are no concerns about comparing the 2010 data with the 2014 data from the broader definition.

Percentage breakdown of eligible voters who indicated having a disability:  Base: Non-Disabled (n=694), Disabled (n=180)

Question 6a: Which, if any, of the following disabilities do you have …?

Disabled = 21 per cent (n=180)

  • Physical/mobility – ten per cent
  • Deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing – five per cent
  • Mental health – five per cent
  • Blind or partially sighted – three per cent
  • Learning – two per cent
  • Intellectual/developmental – one per cent
  • Speech or language – one per cent
  • Chronic pain – one per cent
  • Other – one per cent

Non-disabled = 79 per cent (n=694)

Survey Methodology: Eligible Voters with a Disability

Throughout the report totals may not add to 100% due to rounding or because the question is a multi-select question, where respondents were permitted to choose more than one response.

Green and red arrows have been used to highlight statistically significant differences between the 2010 post-election survey and 2014 post-election survey.

Executive Summary

Voting Behaviour

As we know, there was a directional increase in voter turnout in 2014. The increase appears to have come from an increase in the number of younger voters (under the age of 35) and an increase in the voting among those living in downtown Toronto.

Top reasons for voting continue to be: civic duty/responsibility, to voice opinions (which is higher than it was in 2010), right to vote and a desire for change.

In 2014 compared to 2010, significantly more electors say they didn’t vote because they were too busy or didn’t have time. Among those who are disabled, 9 per cent indicate not voting because of difficulty with their mobility or had no access to transportation.

The Voting Process

More electors report that they were ‘very knowledgeable’ about when, where and how to vote on Election Day and alternate options, such as Advanced Voting in 2014 compared to 2010. Ratings of the process to find out if you are on the Voter List also improved since 2010.

Eligible electors with a disability provide higher ratings for accessibility services, information and provision in 2014 compared to 2010.

Fewer voters with a disability report experiencing a problem or barrier at the voting location compared to 2010. While there has been an increase in problems and barriers among non-disabled voters. Inefficient/unknowledgeable staff is the only problem mentioned more frequently in 2014 than 2010.

Among non-disabled voters, ratings on the availability of parking and seating have declined significantly which aligns with the increase in voter turnout (but the scores on both are still relatively good).

Among both voters with a disability and those without, privacy ratings at the voting ‘booth’ increased significantly.

Accessible Services for Eligible Voters with Disabilities

Compared to 2010, more electors with a physical/mobility disability are aware that there is wheelchair access at the voting booth on Election Day. As well, more disabled electors were aware of Advance Voting for Election Day, that additional staff is available to assist electors, and that electors can appoint a proxy to go and vote on their behalf.

The ratings of the quality of several accessible services are higher than in 2010 including (but not limited to) the following: accessibility services related to outreach to community groups, accessible website design, and among those with a physical/mobility disability ratings for wheelchair access at the voting booth on Election Day and voter-assist terminals.

Voting Information and Communication

Slightly fewer electors report contacting the City of Toronto for help with a problem during the election this year compared to 2010.

Awareness of advertising not sponsored by a candidate has remained roughly the same as it was in 2010. The lower recall of the advertising is mostly driven by lower recall among those 18-34 and 55+ and those who have high school or less education. The most effective way to share election information for both groups is through a flyer sent to the home, followed by major newspapers.

General Attitudes Toward Voting

In 2014 significantly more electors agree that the candidates made it more important to vote in this election, and that they felt informed about this election. Three-quarters of those with a disability (74 per cent) think the City’s accessibility plan met the needs of people with disabilities.

While views of Internet voting are somewhat mixed, a greater share of electors say they would vote online than in-person if Internet voting were available in the next municipal election. This, despite the fact that only 50 per cent are confident that votes cannot be tampered with online. Half would trust the outcome of an election with Internet voting the same as one with only in-person voting, while most of the other half say they would trust the outcome less.

Recommendations for Moving Forward

The 2010 post-election survey showed that Toronto Elections performed well during the election and the 2014 survey shows that Toronto Elections performed about the same in some areas, but in others areas performed better than in 2010. There are no areas where Toronto performed worse than in 2010.

In 2010, the research recommended that Toronto Elections focus on increasing the public’s awareness of the additional services it provides to electors with disabilities as well as the quality of those services and the 2014 research shows Toronto Elections has made good progress. Awareness of most services has increased only directionally, but the increases are so consistent across the long list of services we can feel confident that there has been improvement. Moreover, awareness of a few key services has increased significantly, including the availability of advance voting, that additional staff is available to assist voters with disabilities, wheelchair access to the voting booth on Election Day and the appointment of a proxy voter who can vote on behalf of those unable to voting themselves. As well, the perceptions of the quality of at least half of the long list of accessibility-related services has increased significantly, while the others have increased directionally.  While this year’s results show good progress, there is room to further increase awareness of accessible services.

The 2010 report noted that when it comes to increasing voter-turnout much is out of the City’s hands, and this is still the case. However, there has been a spike in the reasons why electors did not vote. Compared to 2010, significantly more electors indicated that they didn’t vote because they were too busy/didn’t have time. One way the City can address  this is by more strongly promoting the option of Advance voting to electors.