August 21, 2015 (Toronto, ON) – A new Mainstreet/Postmedia poll finds Canadians divided over the ride-sharing service Uber; with those in larger cities—where Uber is more established—more likely to be supportive of it. Canadians were surveyed across six cities: Edmonton, London, Montréal, Québec City, Ottawa and Toronto. The maximum margin of error for the polls is +/-3.7%, 19/20. Collectively the six polls have 7,323 respondents; they are the largest independent poll of Uber worldwide.
“People are still making up their minds about Uber. While it’s not universally loved, Uber finds support among a critical mass of people in larger cities, especially with those who are younger” said Quito Maggi, president of Mainstreet Research. “Our findings show that most Canadians are paying close attention to the situation with Uber and taxis, with those most aware of the situation more likely to favour Uber. However, people are still unconvinced of Uber’s merits in the places where Uber has more recently expanded.”
Mainstreet found levels of support for Uber highest among younger people, namely those 18-34 and 35-49. This accounted for much of Uber’s backing in Toronto and Montréal. “Uber is most popular with a younger, more technologically conscious demographic, almost all of whom have smartphones” explained Maggi. “The generational gap in support for Uber reflects the fact that young people are, quite simply, much more familiar with it.” Those who were following the story surrounding Uber and taxis were also more likely to be supportive.
Torontonians are among the most favourable to the ride sharing service, with 45% of respondents in support of continuing operations while 37% want it banned. Seven in 10 respondents in the city are following the issue surrounding Uber and taxis, which began when UberX launched last fall. While Mayor John Tory has publicly backed Uber, city council is divided on the issue and some drivers have been ticketed for by-law infractions. A similar number of people consider Uber to be safe as support it (48%), while 85% say the same of taxis. Torontonians largely favour change in the taxi industry, with 44% wanting to abolish the current system, albeit most with compensation for current drivers. Respondents were strongly in favour of Uber playing by existing rules, with 63% saying Uber should have the same regulations as taxis. Most want a compromise between Uber and taxis to get there, with 38% favouring such a solution.
Montréal is even slightly more enthusiastic about Uber than Toronto, with 46% of respondents in favour and 38% opposed. Uber has been a source of much friction in the city, where it launched last fall; Mayor Denis Coderre and much of city council are opposed to it. Earlier this summer, police impounded Uber cars and confrontations between taxi and Uber drivers turned violent. With Québec Premier Phillipe Couillard now indicating he’s open to regulating Uber, taxi drivers are growing increasingly agitated. Seven in ten respondents have been following the conflict. Uber’s strong levels of support are reflected in the 47% of respondents who consider it safe; 86% consider taxis safe. Nearly half of Montréalers want to shake up the taxi industry, with 48% favouring its abolition (35% with compensation for current drivers and 13% without.) Montréalers still want Uber to play by existing rules, however, with 63% believing Uber should be held to the same standards as taxis and 36% favouring a compromise between the two rivals as the way to get there.
Ottawans were less enthusiastic about Uber than those in the bigger cities, with 36% supporting the continuation of Uber’s service and 40% supporting banning Uber. Ottawa was more aware of the Uber-taxi conflict than any other city in Canada, with 72% of respondents following the situation very or somewhat closely. Uber came to Ottawa late last year, and has been opposed by Mayor Jim Watson and the city’s taxi industry, with some drivers ticketed by by-law officers as well. While an overwhelming 88% of respondents felt that taxis were safe, the 50% who said the same of Uber was the highest number in Canada. Half of Ottawans favour abolishing the current system (most with compensation for current drivers); 34% believe that a compromise should be reached between Uber and the taxi industry and 58% think Uber should follow the same rules.
Edmontonians feel similarly to Ottawans when it comes to Uber, 36% of them are in support of the service and 41% in favour of a ban; six in 10 are following the issue. Uber launched in Edmonton last December and has met with opposition from the taxi industry and a mixed reaction from City Hall. There was a brief, unsuccessful attempt to issue tickets to drivers, but only three were actually ticketed. Taxis remain popular, with 84% of respondents feeling that they are safe, compared to only 43% for Uber. People are split on what to do in the future, with 27% in favour of maintaining the system and the same amount wanting to abolish it with compensation for current drivers. There was less division on whether Uber should follow the same rules as taxis with 66% agreeing; 38% want a comprise to be reached to get there.
Residents of Québec City were cool to Uber’s presence, with 43% backing a ban and 32% wanting the service to continue. Six in 10 Québeckers were aware of the issues surrounding Uber, which launched in the city earlier this year. Since then, it has encountered issues similar to other cities, including municipal opposition, by-law ticketing and taxi industry anger. Québec Premier Phillipe Couillard’s recent indication that he’s open to legalizing Uber has given the service new hope. While 43% said that they consider Uber to be safe, 86% felt that taxis were the same. Despite their opposition to Uber, 43% of Québeckers favour abolishing the current system. Furthermore, 60% want a compromise between Uber and the taxi industry and 35% want both to follow the same rules.
Londoners were most hostile to Uber, with nearly half wanting it banned and only 23% supporting the ride sharing service’s continued operations. Uber launched in London last month, which explains why only 37% of respondents have been following the Uber-taxi issue. City council has been relatively friendly, but the lack of students at Western likely explains the low awareness and support for Uber, even among young people. Londoners took a dim view of Uber’s safety record; only 29% called it safe, compared to 85% for taxis. The situation does have a silver lining for Uber: 57% of Londoners favour abolishing the current system, most without compensation for taxi drivers. They want Uber and the taxi industry to follow the same rules (64%), and think the two rivals to compromise in order to get there (34%.)
“Canadians are still getting used to Uber,” added Maggi. “We see that in larger cities where the ride sharing service is more accepted, people are much more likely to support it. Uber’s challenge is to raise awareness and get more people using the service, which will build support, while avoiding trouble with regulation and the taxi industry. The window for the Taxi industry to impact public opinion is narrowing but they have a key advantage when it comes to safety. The challenge for Taxis will be to offer comparable smartphone applications in order to compete and to convince City Halls across Canada to take action against Uber in the face of rising public support.”
About Mainstreet Research
Mainstreet is a national public research firm. With 20 years of political experience at all three levels of government, President and CEO Quito Maggi is a respected commentator on Canadian public affairs.
Differentiated by its large sample sizes, Mainstreet has provided accurate snapshots of public opinion, having predicted a majority NDP government in Alberta (2015), a majority Liberal government in British Columbia, and a majority Liberal government in Ontario. Most recently, Mainstreet was the most accurate pollster of November’s Toronto mayoral election.