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Divisions in Hamilton

It has been almost eighteen years since the City of Hamilton was amalgamated with the former municipalities of Ancaster, Stony Creek, Flamborough, Glanbrook and Dundas, yet, the community remains divided on a number of very important issues. The most recent Mayoral race provided a stark example: the campaign focused (almost exclusively) on the Council-approved plan to build a Light Rail Transit (LRT) line in the downtown core.

This election is only the tip of the iceberg in showing the divide in Hamilton. A detailed survey conducted by on behalf of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association shows the extent of the community divide.

The Beasley Neighbourhood Association survey was conducted using interactive voice response technology on September 10th and 11th, 2018 from 6:45 pm to approximately 8:45 pm each evening. Results were weighted to roughly match the age and gender of the population of the City of Hamilton according to the 2016 Census. A total of 561 people completed the first question of the survey and 379 completed the entire survey. A total of 401,333 phone numbers were called as part of this campaign. A total of 109,867 of these numbers were active lines (i.e. the call was an active number that either generated no answer, an answering machine or the call was answered). A contact rate of 19.3% was achieved (i.e. 21,188 of the active lines answered the phone). The response rate was 0.35% (the rate improves to 0.51% when examining only the first question). (Raw survey data can be found here).

The results of the survey were skewed towards voters, with 80.0% of respondent indicating they had voted in the last municipal election compared to actual turnout of 33.5%. This skew towards voters is not entirely surprising, as individuals who are likely to vote are also the same individuals who are more likely to take part in a survey asking about civic issues.

Overall the rating of the performance of Hamilton City Council as a whole over the past four years is not positive. 34% of people rated the performance as poor or very poor and another 45% rated it as average, while on 20% rated the city council’s performance as good or very good. This rating was significantly divided between those over and under 65. A total of 29% of Hamilton residents over 65% rated council’s performance as good or very good while only 15% of those under 65 gave a good or very good rating.  Local councillors themselves did considerably better, with 40% giving their local councillor a very good or good rating, 36% an average rating and 24% a poor or very poor rating.

We also asked residents to indicate which of six issues were important to them on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 and 2 being Very important and somewhat important. These issues were ranked as follows by Hamilton residents:

    1. Public Safety & Crime (85% rating as important with a 1 or 2)
    2. The condition of local roads and highways (83%)
    3. Tax Increase (70%)
    4. Keeping the price of housing affordable (68%)
    5. Improving parks, green spaces & recreational programs (67%)
    6. Funding public transit (56%)

These topline results, however, do not reveal the significant divide between respondents in the lower city and Hamilton Mountain and those in rural and suburban Hamilton. When comparing these issues between the downtown and mountain areas and the rural and suburban areas three issues had a statistically significant difference in levels of support.

Percent Indicating Issue is a Priority
Issues Downtown/Mountain Rural/suburban
Taxes Low 66 77
Keeping housing affordable 73 57
Public Transit Funding 60 48

No statistical difference was found between the condition of local roads, improving parks, or public safety and crime.

Percent Indicating Issue is a Priority
Issues Downtown/Mountain Rural/suburban
Condition of Local Roads 83 84
Improving Parks 69 64
Public Safety and Crime 86 83

Despite the lower ranking amongst issues, specific questions about housing affordability revealed significant support for taking action to improve affordability. A total of 70% of Hamilton residents indicated they support taking action to keep Hamilton affordable for renters and homeowners. In addition, 64% of residents support requiring developers to include affordable housing units in new buildings