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Vision Critical Cities Project – Extreme Feelings: Citizens are either Angry Activists, Happy Campers, or Somewhere in the Middle when it comes to their cities

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – June 1, 2013 – A four-country survey about citizens’ feelings towards their local governments shows cities have big challenges, and big opportunities when it comes to engaging with and listening to their people.

This spring, Vision Critical, the world’s leading provider of insight community technologies, asked more than five thousand people in Canada, the United States, Britain and Australia about their levels of satisfaction with their local governments and about how connected to their communities they feel. 

This comprehensive survey is part of the Vision Critical Cities Project, aimed at investigating and bringing to light the levels and quality of citizen engagement around the world.

In total, 5,053 adults were asked about their attitudes towards local government and their interactions with their city halls.

The study shows the majority of Canadians, 71 per cent, are moderately, very, or extremely satisfied with their local governments. However, only 43 per cent feel they get good value for their money. And 40 per cent say their local government does a good job of consulting with them. 

Municipal governments fare better than their provincial and federal counterparts on citizen satisfaction. Previous studies put average rates of Canadian citizen satisfaction with the federal government at 44 per cent and with provincial governments at 38 per cent.

A deeper look into the numbers provides striking insights into the mindsets and motivations of citizens. The survey reveals most respondents fit into four categories when it comes to engaging with local government: people who are either Angry Activists or Happy Campers on the extreme ends of satisfaction, or Young and Ambivalent, and Retiring Skeptics in the middle.

“Local governments face an eclectic landscape of citizen attitudes,” says Dr. Angus Reid, Chairman, Vision Critical. “At one extreme is a group (16%) that is highly dissatisfied with local government and unafraid to make itself heard. At the other end is a larger group (26%) that is consistently pleased with almost everything it sees in local government. In between is a group dominated by young people who aren’t involved or engaged, and another group, closer to retirement which presents a profile of weary resignation toward municipal issues. If local governments are serious about listening to and consulting their citizens, they must consider the method and means by which they are connecting,” says Dr. Reid.

For full tables and descriptions of the segment groups see attached backgrounder.

BC-based Vision Critical was founded in 2000 by Andrew Reid and employs more than 600 people in Metro Vancouver and around the world. More than 600 governments and organizations around the world, including a third of the top 100 brands have come to rely on Vision Critical’s online communities. Learn more at Follow us on Twitter at


Shachi Kurl, Director of Communications, Vision Critical

Phone: 604-908-1693/Email: /Twitter: @shachikurl

Canadians are Satisfied with their Municipal Governments


  • 70% of Canadians are generally satisfied with their municipal government.
  • Canadians are more satisfied with their local governments than Americans, Britons or Australians.
  • But, it is increasingly difficult for local government to engage with the majority of Canadians.

From February to March, 2013, Vision Critical conducted an online survey among 4,034 randomly selected adults from Canada, the UK and the United States who are panelists on an Angus Reid Forum. In Australia the survey was conducted online with 1,019 randomly selected adults who are Nine Rewards panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20 for Canada, the US and Australia. The UK survey has a margin of error of +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of each country. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.


Happy Campers

These folks are satisfied with their communities, satisfied with their politicians, and satisfied with their bureaucrats. They are satisfied with the way their local governments communicate long term vision, and respond to citizen needs. They think their local politicians are working in their best interests and they feel like their vote makes a difference. These Canadians (26% of respondents overall) are also satisfied with municipal engagement, and that they have both access to city hall to have their say, and, that their opinions are heard.

Young and Ambivalent

They represent about a quarter of overall respondents in Canada. They are predominantly young, and for municipal governments, likely the hardest to reach no matter what they do or try from an engagement perspective. The Young and Ambivalent are more likely to be wired, participating in activities online. They are a diverse group. They don’t agree on much when it comes to specific attitudes towards city hall, but are all most likely not to vote because they don’t know enough about the issues. Roughly 60 per cent don’t have a sense of what their local government even does.  The majority of the Young and Ambivalent think the goings-on at city hall are too complex to figure out. However, they also think engagement and public consultation are worthwhile efforts, and say they wish there were easier ways to talk to their local governments.