Metro Vancouver transit referendum: Who voted yes, who voted no, and what will it mean for the region?

Metro Vancouver transit referendum: Who voted yes, who voted no, and what will it mean for the region?

Despite their defeat, yes voters were more likely to say holding the transit plebiscite was a good idea.

July 3, 2015 – Now what?

After a fractious 10-week campaign, angus reid instituteElections BC released the results of the Metro Vancouver transit plebiscite Thursday, revealing that almost 62 per cent of voters had said “No” to the question: “Do you support a new 0.5% Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax, to be dedicated to the Mayors’ Council transportation and transit plan?”

The result aligns with the findings of an Angus Reid Institute poll of Metro Vancouver residents conducted days after the voting period ended, in which 59 per cent said they had voted “No”.

It also shows a consistency on part of those opposed to the question going back to the beginning of the official campaign, when an earlier Angus Reid Institute survey showed voters leaning 61 per cent “No”.

Regional leaders are now left to come up with a new plan for the future of transportation in the Lower Mainland.

Why did the referendum fail? Who voted against it? And do they believe the “No” outcome is ultimately a good thing or a bad thing for the region’s future? The ARI poll provides some insights on these and other questions.

Unprecedented awareness of transit vote

For months leading up to the 10-week campaign – and much of the campaign itself – the transit referendum dominated headlines in Metro Vancouver. Perhaps as a result, the Angus Reid Institute found unprecedented levels of awareness of the issue among residents of the region.

More than two-in-five metro residents surveyed (44%) reported that they were following the issue in the news and discussing it with friends and family, while another two-fifths (42%) saw some media coverage and had the odd conversation with friends. Added together, these two measures show a vast majority of Metro Vancouver residents (86%) paid a good deal of attention to the campaign.

angus reid institute

Awareness of the transit referendum increased slightly as the campaign went on. When ARI asked how closely metro residents were following the issue in February, fewer than three-quarters of respondents (72%) chose one of the top two answers.

Was holding a referendum a good idea?

Though it ultimately turned out the way they wanted it to, most “No” voters would have preferred not to have seen a referendum on transit at all.

Asked if it was a good idea or a bad idea to hold the plebiscite in the first place, six-in-ten “No” voters (60%) chose the “bad idea” option.

“Yes” voters were more evenly split on the idea: 38 per cent said it was a bad one, 36 per cent said it was good, and a quarter (26%) were unsure.

angus reid instituteHow will a “No” vote affect the region?

The Angus Reid Institute also asked voters to rank – on a scale from 1 to 10 – each of the possible outcomes of the transit referendum, with 1 being “a huge mistake” for the region’s future and 10 being “the smartest possible choice.”

Residents had a generally favourable view of the “No” outcome, with one-third (34%) choosing an 8, 9, or 10 on the scale. Another 44 per cent chose a number between 4 and 7. Relatively fewer people were inclined to say a “No” outcome would be a mistake for the region:

angus reid institute

Predictably, “No” voters were more likely to think a “No” vote would be good for Metro Vancouver’s future and “Yes” voters were more likely to think the same of a “Yes” vote.

That said, it’s notable just how polarized a significant portion of each of these groups is on this question:

  • Three-in-ten “No” voters (30%) indicated a “Yes side” win would be “a huge mistake” for the region’s future by choosing a 1 on the scale.
  • A quarter of “No” voters (26%) said a “No side” win would be “the smartest possible choice” for the future by choosing the highest possible number (a 10).
  • Similarly, more than a quarter (27%) of “Yes” voters chose a 1 on the “No side wins” scale.
  • And another one-in-four (24%) chose a 10 on the “Yes side wins” scale.

Who are the voters?

The Angus Reid Institute survey identified some key differences between those who voted “Yes” and those who voted “No” in the transit referendum. These differences – and some similarities – are summarized in the table below:


Profile of a “Yes” voter:

“Yes” voters tend to be younger – fully half (50%) of those between the ages of 18 and 34 who cast a ballot voted for the “Yes” side. This was the only age group in which voters were evenly split between the “Yes” and “No” camps:

angus reid instituteVoters for the “Yes” side are also more likely to live in the City of Vancouver than “No” voters, and they’re somewhat more likely to have a university education.

Perhaps predictably, the “Yes” voter is more likely to take transit. The number of those saying they use transit a minimum of two or three times a week was more than double that of a “No” voter (43% – 19%). The same relationship holds for those who rely on transit as their primary mode of transport. 17 per cent of Yes voters take transit every day, compared to 8 per cent on the “No” side.

Though they do drive, “Yes” voters are considerably less likely than “No” voters to use cars as their primary mode of transportation. One-quarter (25%) drives every day, another quarter (25%) drives most days, and the other half (49%) drives less than two or three times a week, with 12 per cent not driving at all.

Profile of a “No” voter:

“No” voters tend to be older than the 18 to 34-year-old cohort. Both those between ages 35 and 54 and those aged 55 and older opposed the question at roughly the same rate (62% of those 35-54 and 63% of those 55 or older voted “No”).

They’re also more likely to come from outside the City of Vancouver. That city was the only one in the region where a majority of those surveyed said they had voted “Yes:”

angus reid institute

“No” voters are also somewhat less likely to have a university degree than “Yes” voters, though a majority of each education-level group voted against the referendum:

angus reid institute

Chances are, the average “No” voter is not a regular transit user. Fewer than one-in-five (19%) take transit two or three times a week or more, and only 8 per cent take it every day.

The “No” voter is also slightly less likely to commute. Roughly one-third (34%) don’t commute at all, and more than half (52%) commute 15 minutes or less. This compares to 28 per cent of “Yes” voters who do not commute and 44 per cent whose commutes are 15 minutes or less.

Voters and non-voters agree on ‘No’ vote

According to Elections BC, fewer than half of registered voters cast ballots in the plebiscite, but responses to the Angus Reid Institute poll indicate a higher turnout wouldn’t have necessarily changed the result.

Among non-voters, more than half (51%) said they would have voted against the referendum if they had cast a ballot. More were unsure (26%) than were certain they would have voted yes (23%).

angus reid institute

Distaste for TransLink motivated ‘No’ voters

In February, six-in-ten (61%) of those leaning toward voting for the “No” side listed “TransLink cannot be trusted with the extra funds that will be raised with this tax” as one of the main reasons for their vote. No other option was selected by more than 45 per cent of respondents.

A separate survey question asking people for their overall views of TransLink found two-thirds (64%) expressing an overall negative view of the agency. Two-in-five (39%) said their overall opinion is “very negative, TransLink is very broken and needs a complete overhaul”.

Only one-in-ten (12%) of the Metro Vancouver residents surveyed had a positive view of TransLink, including only one-in-three (30%) “Yes” supporters and almost none (4%) of those leaning to the “No” side.

Click here for the full report including tables and methodology

Click here for the questionnaire used in this survey

Shachi Kurl, Senior Vice President: 604.908.1693


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