A report on municipal candidates’ motivations and opinions has been released by an assistant political science professor from the University of Amsterdam, working with a political science doctoral candidate from McGill University.
A survey was sent to candidates in Ontario’s municipal elections in the all of 2018. The goal of the survey was to better understand candidates’ backgrounds, their views and opinions on issues in their municipalities and the motivations which led them to run for office.
In total, 3,228 candidates from 159 different municipalities were invited to participate. About one third, or 1,017 candidates responded, with the sample consisting primarily of men (56.2 per cent), while 29.5 per cent were women. Most respondents were over the age of 50; 3.5 per cent were younger than 30 years old. About eight per cent of the respondents were between the ages of 30 and 39, while about 16 per cent were between the ages of 40 and 49.
About 35 per cent of the candidates were seeking election for the first time. More than 15 per cent of candidates reported being involved in politics for between one and five years, with about 10 per cent being involved in politics for between 5 and 10 years. A large proportion of the candidates (28.4%) reported being involved in politics for more than a decade.
Why do candidates run for office?
About 70 per cent of candidates were motivated to make a contribution to improving their municipality, while about 30 per cent were motivated by frustration with the current state of politics or the belief that they can serve their community (47.1%). For about three per cent of candidates, a career change or to develop their political career was the motivating factor.
While 48.5 per cent said they experienced no barriers at all, about 46 per cent of women said that their gender was a barrier to their candidacy, while 57.8 per cent of visible minority residents indicated ethnicity was a significant barrier. A smaller number of respondents pointed to religion (4.62%) or sexual identity (2.26%). Just under 20 per cent indicated other barriers. Although the survey team did not ask about it directly, they said that feedback provided by some respondents suggested financial considerations were a significant barrier.
Candidates were also asked about their opinions on four different topics.
On average, a majority of candidates supported implementing online voting in municipal elections (average level of support was 68.85 per cent), but were strongly opposed to lowering the voting age to 16 (average level of support was 34.26 per cent). When it came to deciding on regulations affecting municipal employees, respondents were split on whether or not to support preferential hiring of women (average level of support was 53.64 per cent), while 30.9 per cent were opposed to introducing a ban on municipal employees wearing religious symbols.