Toronto transit poll

Finally a poll on Toronto transit plans that doesn't suck

Although the next municipal election is years away, following council's special meeting on transit planning, this has been the week of the poll. First Stratcom weighed in on the mayor's popularity and the degree to which Toronto is divided on transit strategy, and then Forum Research came along with its own survey, which seemed to indicate a clear preference for subways over at grade transit.

It wasn't too hard, however, to poke holes in some of the conclusions drawn from the data reported by each company. The question that served as the basis for Stratcom's poll misrepresented Rob Ford's transit plan, while the Forum Research poll included a virtually meaningless question that pitted LRT against subways with no additional context (The Toronto Sun, of course, picked up on that particular stat).

Enter Leger Marketing, who posed more specific questions and provided crucial background information to its online survey group. "When you ask people, 'do you prefer subways or light rail,' a razor-thin majority chooses subways. But when you let them compare the plans on the table today, there's a clear preference for City Council's light-rail plan," executive vice president of Leger Marketing Dave Scholz said in a press release.

Here are some of the findings Leger has reported today:

  • 51 per cent believe Toronto should "keep the light-rail lines as voted on by City Council", while 38 per cent agree with the mayor's preference to "stop the light-rail lines and build subways instead."
  • Only 32 per cent agree that "we should build subways because it's what Rob Ford promised in the election, and he has a mandate, even if it means overriding the city council's vote on the matter."
  • 91 per cent believe that "smart transit planning is done for the long term and should not be changed every time a new government is elected."
  • When asked to choose between subways and light rail in abstract terms, respondents prefer subways by a margin of 50 per cent to 40 per cent. However, 82 per cent agree that "Toronto should have a mix of subways, light rail, streetcars and buses, depending on the number of people living in the neighbourhoods."

Lest I get too congratulatory, it's worth noting that Leger is working with a considerably smaller sample than its counterparts. Its survey involved 504 respondents (both Stratcom and Forum Research were well above 1000), and yields a margin of error of 4.5 per cent 19 times out of 20.

Okay, no more posts on surveys/polls for this week. I promise.

Photo by Christian Bobak

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