Vital Signs 2015

Belonging & leadership

Hamiltonians’ sense of belonging and life satisfaction rates are increasing. Voter turnout is improving but remains below average. The number of women elected to political office is below Ontario’s average, and visible minorities are greatly under-represented. Hamilton’s volunteer rate is higher than both provincial and national averages, as is the rate of charitable giving. Life satisfaction ratings show over 90% of Hamiltonians are satisfied with their lives.

Sense of Community Belonging

In 2009-10, 67.0% of Hamiltonians reported having a “strong” or “somewhat strong” sense of community belonging, similar to provincial and national averages, and up slightly from 65.1% in 2007-2008, and 59.0% in 2001.

As the chart below shows, residents of the Hamilton CMA had sense of belonging higher than most of the other CMAs listed. Only residents of Thunder Bay, Ontario (73%) and St. John’s, Newfoundland (72%) reported higher levels of sense of belonging than Hamilton.




McMaster University’s Dr. Peter Kitchen and Dr. Alison Williams forthcoming research shows that sense of belonging varies by gender, age, neighbourhood, income and physical and mental health.[1] In particular:

  • Women have a higher sense of belonging than men.
  • Older Hamiltonians have a higher sense of belonging than do younger Hamiltonians.
  • Residents of the more rural areas have a higher sense of belonging than those in urban areas – particularly the lower city.
  • People with higher incomes are more likely to report a higher sense of belonging than are people with low incomes (71% compared to 60%).
  • People with good or excellent physical health have a higher sense of belonging than those with poor physical health (70% compared to 60%).
  • People with good or excellent mental health have a higher sense of belonging than do those with poor mental health (68% compared to 43%).

There is a wide variety of connection to neighbourhoods across Hamilton. The City of Hamilton’s Early Years Research team recently surveyed 1,000 parents across Hamilton and asked them to rate neighbourhood cohesion on a scale from 0-6 (with 6 being the most cohesive). Most neighbourhoods fell between 3.7 and 4.2, but some averaged as low as 2.1 and several as high as 4.7.[2]

Voter Turnout

Some 40% of eligible Hamiltonians voted in last year’s municipal election, up from the previous two in which 37% and 38% of eligible voters went to the polls. Turnout varied by ward – Dundas was highest at 46%, while in Ward 3, fewer than one-third voted (31%).[3] The following table shows turnout for the 2010 election by ward.




In the 2011 Federal election, 58% of Hamiltonians voted, up slightly from 56% in 2008, but below the provincial (62%) and national (61%) averages.  Turnout varied by polling station: several saw fewer than 22% of eligible voters, while others saw over 70%.[4] To see detailed poll-by-poll results for the 2011 federal election, click here, and follow the links to poll-by-poll results.

Diversity in Elected Politicians

Three women were elected in Hamilton’s 2010 municipal election (20% of total seats), an increase of one from the previous term, and below the 28% provincial average.[5] Federally and provincially, women hold three of Hamilton’s ten ridings, including the only female leader of a Canadian political party. Visible minorities are greatly under-represented across Ontario, occupying only 7.6% of all municipal council seats. The most recent visible minority politician elected provincially or federally in Hamilton was Lincoln Alexander in 1980.

The following chart shows that across Ontario’s largest 23 municipalities, including Hamilton, women, foreign-born, and visible minorities are under-represented among candidates and those successfully elected to office.[6]




Life Satisfaction

In 2009-10, 92% of Hamiltonians reported being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their lives. This percentage is slightly higher than the 89% average reported in 2005-6 and 2007-8. It is similar to the provincial and national averages of 92%.[7]

Charitable Donations

In 2009, 25% of tax filers in the Hamilton CMA reported charitable donations, down from 27% in 2008. Hamilton’s average remained above provincial (24%), and national averages (23%). The average donation increased from $290 in 2008 to $300 in 2009.[8]

Volunteer Rate

The volunteer rate for the Hamilton CMA was higher than Ontario and Canadian averages. In 2007, 52% of people in the Hamilton CMA reported volunteering, compared to 47% for Ontario and 46% for Canada. In 2004, the rate for Hamilton was 56%, compared to 50% for Ontario and 45% for Canada.[9]


[1] Kitchen, P. and Williams, A. (forthcoming). Social Indicators Research.
[2] City of Hamilton, Community Services, Early Years Research Team.
[3] City of Hamilton. Official 2010 Municipal Election Results.
[4] Elections Canada, 2011 Federal Election Results.
[5] Welcoming Communities Initiative, Bulletin Feb 2011.
[6] Welcoming Communities Initiative, Bulletin Feb 2011.
[7] Statistics Canada, Health Profiles, 2011.
[8] Statistics Canada. Cansim Table 111-0001. CA data obtained by special request.
Data supplied by Community Foundations of Canada.
[9] Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), Cansim Table 105-0501.