Eight Years a Mayor?
Candidates are breaking even so far
By Marc Zwelling
Rob Ford will win a new four-year term as Toronto’s mayor in the October municipal election.
It’s one scenario. Don’t like it? Okay. Ford will lose. Really, the outcomes are equally possible.
Polls this far ahead of the October 27 election are speedometers, not oracles. Because voter turnout is so low, pollsters are sampling many non-voters. The 50.1 per cent turnout in the 2010 mayoral election was unusually high.
Despite his PG-13-rated lifestyle, the mayor has a good chance of stretching his term to eight years because Toronto has a secret crush on Rob Ford.
Consider the following:
• Seventy-two per cent of Toronto residents sampled by Ipsos Reid (Dec. 9-13) agreed that he should have resigned “after admitting illegal drug use” (48 per cent agreed “strongly”).
• Nonetheless, in the same poll, 39 per cent said they “would consider voting for Mayor Rob Ford in the next municipal election.”
• Ford’s job approval numbers are recovering—40 per cent in November in an Ipsos poll, 45 per cent in a January Forum Research poll.
That he infuriates media pundits and most politicians is the very trait that makes Ford appealing to the middle-class homeowners who do the voting in local elections. The upper classes give him no respect. In the Ipsos survey, people in households with annual earnings above $100,000 are noticeably cooler to Ford than less affluent voters.
Another reason Ford isn’t toast is that voters see few saints in politics. His moral failures haven’t involved bribes or overcharging on expense accounts. Compared with the senators facing criminal charges, Ford is squeaky clean.
For a long time, the people have been deeply cynical about their elected leaders, as the following results indicate:
• In a 2002 Léger national poll, 53 per cent said municipal politics are highly or somewhat corrupt.
• Last year, in an Association for Canadian Studies poll, 79 per cent said, “I don’t think that the government cares much about what people like me think.”
• Out of the people working in 26 different professions tested in a 2011 Ipsos poll, only 17 per cent of respondents trusted “local municipal politicians,” putting this group fourth from the bottom.
If the polls are accurate, they consistently show that if Ford were to have just one opponent, he would be unlikely to win. MP Olivia Chow led him 57 per cent to 33 per cent in an August Forum Research survey. Councillor Karen Stintz beat him by 52 per cent to 33 per cent in the November Ipsos poll.
But the more candidates on the ballot, the more they damage each other as well as Ford.
For instance, in a Jan. 22 Forum poll, Chow’s support fell to 31 per cent, while radio personality John Tory got 28 per cent, Ford 20 per cent and Stintz 10 per cent. Ex-councillor David Soknacki trailed them all.
Seeing Ford’s support climbing in January, Forum president Lorne Bozinoff concluded, “In any race where Rob Ford faces John Tory or Olivia Chow, the result is essentially a tie.”
Ford can win because he has the strongest brand: the “gravy” fighter, the taxpayers’ bodyguard in municipal politics. After city council gave some of Ford’s mayoral powers to the deputy mayor, 62 per cent told Ipsos, “I hope city council and Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly continue with Mayor Ford’s agenda.”
Ipsos Senior VP, John Wright, called Ford “dead mayor walking” in a Globe and Mail piece. But in the Nov. 8-12 Ipsos poll, 47 per cent agreed Ford is “doing things at City Hall that I want him to keep doing.” Ford got 47 per cent of the vote in 2010.
Marc Zwelling is the founder of the Vector Poll™ (www.vectorresearch.com) and author of Public Opinion and Polling For Dummies, published by Wiley (2012).