Mayor Nenshi: Who likes him — and who doesn't

Young women who live in north Calgary and support the NDP are most likely to approve of the mayor — while he's far less popular among older, male UCP supporters who live in the south.

Approval rating highest among women, young people, north Calgary residents and NDP supporters

Young women who live in the northern half of Calgary and support the provincial NDP are most likely to be satisfied with the performance of Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

That's according to extensive, recent polling commissioned by the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy.

Conversely, the survey found older men who live in the south and support the UCP are most likely to disapprove of the job the mayor is doing.

Overall, 56 per cent of Calgarians were "somewhat" or "very" satisfied with the performance of the mayor.

"But there's a lot of variation in that satisfaction score, based on who you ask," said political science professor Jack Lucas, who led the survey research.

Younger Calgarians, for instance, tend to favour Nenshi's performance by a large margin.

Among 18- to 34-year-olds, 70 per cent said they were satisfied with the mayor.

That falls to 42 per cent among Calgarians over the age of 65.

Click or tap on the interactive chart below to explore Nenshi's approval rating among different demographic groups:

(Can't see the chart? Click here for a version that should work on your device.)

Women were also more satisfied than men were with the mayor. So, too, were Calgarians with a university education compared with those without a degree.

Support for Nenshi also varied depending on where people live.

"The geographic variation in Calgary is quite pronounced," Lucas said.

"There's a pretty clear north-south divide."

You can see how that looks in the map below, which shows satisfaction levels in each of the city's 14 electoral wards. Darker colours indicate higher levels of support for the mayor.

Looking at Mayor Naheed Nenshi's approval rating in each of Calgary's 14 wards reveals a north-south divide in citizen satisfaction. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Lucas had one note of caution about the results in Ward 10, the east-central part of the city that showed the lowest support for Nenshi.

That's because the survey respondents in that ward didn't match the overall demographics of the area.

Ward 10 is home to many recent immigrants but few responded to the in-depth survey, which was conducted in English only. Lucas said this was likely due to linguistic and cultural differences.

As a result, he said, the results for Ward 10 "should be interpreted with a bit of caution."

Correlations to provincial politics

While there are no political parties in Calgary's municipal politics, the survey results found a pronounced connection between support for the mayor and party identification at a provincial level.

Calgarians who described themselves as aligned with the NDP were far more likely to approve of Nenshi, with 82 per cent of them saying they were satisfied with the mayor's performance.

UCP supporters were almost the opposite, with 73 per cent saying they were unsatisfied with the mayor.

"There's been these interesting partisan dimensions to Calgary's politics, even though the city politics are officially non-partisan," Lucas said.

"If you happen to identify with a provincial political party, that shapes how you think about municipal politics as well."

How the survey worked

All these results come from a survey of 2,001 Calgarians conducted by Forum Research between Nov. 14 and Dec. 13, 2018.

The work was part of a larger project called the Canadian Municipal Election Study, which included a survey of Calgarians a year earlier, in the fall of 2017.

Respondents were contacted by phone and those who agreed to participate completed the in-depth survey online, answering a range of questions about themselves and their views on municipal issues.

About 800 of the same people participated in both the 2017 and 2018 surveys, Lucas said, allowing researchers to compare how their views changed over time.

"I'm pretty sure we're safe in saying this is the most detailed survey of public opinion on municipal policy that anyone's done in Canada," he said.

The margin of error in the overall satisfaction scores for the mayor was plus or minus 2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

The margins of error for the demographic and geographic breakdowns varied and were all larger than for the full sample. More detailed data and notes on the methodology are available here.

Calgary: The Road Ahead is CBC Calgary's special focus on our city as it passes through the crucible of the downturn: the challenges we face, and the possible solutions as we explore what kind of Calgary we want to create. Have an idea? Email us at

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Robson Fletcher

Data Journalist

Robson Fletcher's work for CBC Calgary focuses on data, analysis and investigative journalism. He joined CBC in 2015 after spending the previous decade working as a reporter and editor at newspapers in Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba.


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