Tracking the top issues in Metro Vancouver’s civic elections

October 18, 2018

By Anna Lilly and Evi Mustel

Affordable housing. Transportation. Over development. Crime. Taxes.


According to the VoteLocal survey of Metro Vancouver residents, businesses and civic politicians, released in early September, these five topics were identified as the most important issues facing local communities in the lead up to the October 20th municipal election.


It comes as no surprise that affordable housing came out on top. More concerning was our finding that almost half the region’s residents and over a third of its businesses say they have recently considered moving away from the region due to affordability concerns. Residents and business owners expect affordability and quality of life to get worse over the next five years, however municipal politicians are more optimistic.


VoteLocal is a unique research project that compared the views of the public, businesses and politicians, and was conducted by Mustel Group and FleishmanHillard HighRoad, in partnership with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. It provided a snapshot of opinion before the civic election campaign really got going in mid-September.


So we asked ourselves: Have the top issues we identified in our survey turned out to be the topics most talked about on the campaign trail in this final week of the campaign? What can we learn from the chatter on social media, where a lot of the debate (good and bad) tends to take place in relation to elections?


We took a look at Twitter traffic over the past six weeks(September 5th-October 17th), to see the volume of conversation on the top five issues. By zeroing in on civic-election-related hashtags across Metro Vancouver municipalities, and searching for posts related to our top-five topics (and words related to these topics), we found the following ranking by mentions:

  1. Transportation – 1,747 mentions
  2. Affordable housing – 1,426 mentions
  3. Taxes – 1,360 mentions
  4. Crime – 884 mentions
  5. Over development – 103 mentions


To get a better idea of the big picture of the online discussion, we generated word clouds for each of the top-five topics. This allows us to see key terms that came up for each issue and better conceptualize their frequency.  

Word Cloud: frequency of terms mentioned in twitter postings for affordable housing

Word Cloud: frequency of terms mentioned in twitter postings for transportation

Word Cloud: frequency of terms mentioned in twitter postings for taxes

Word Cloud: frequency of terms mentioned in twitter postings for crime

Word Cloud: frequency of terms mentioned in twitter postings for overdevelopment

As a way to measure public interest in individual issues, social media is certainly not perfect. But it’s telling that transportation issues (particularly related to public transit projects like the Millennium SkyTrain extension down Broadway, Surrey LRT, and bike lanes) are eclipsing housing in terms of the online debate.


For those who want to track the online conversation about the civic election in Metro Vancouver, here are the top-ten hashtags that our research indicates as being the most used in relation to the top-five issues:

We’ll be publishing more content at in the final countdown to voting day. Here’s hoping that discussions about the election – whether online or offline –translate into a good turnout at the ballot boxes on October 20th.


Anna Lilly is Senior Vice President and Partner with FleishmanHillard HighRoad, one of B.C.’s leading public affairs and strategic communications firms. Evi Mustel is Principal of Mustel Group Research, a leader in opinion research and analysis in B.C. for the past 25 years.

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