Friday, November 15, 2013

How big is Ford Nation and what is coming in 2014

The Ipsos poll released on November 12 gives us a basis for estimating the size of Ford Nation, at least prior to the beginning of its death spiral. Current developments including stripping Ford of his powers will likely make his situation somewhat worse.

One weakness of Forum Research's recent polling on approval of Ford's performance is that the surveys did not distinguish between those who strongly or just somewhat approve/ disapprove of him. The Ipsos survey does make this distinction. Here are detailed results:

Generally speaking do you approve or disapprove of the overall personal job performance of the following in Toronto?

Strongly Approve
Somewhat Approve
Somewhat Disapprove
Strongly Disapprove
Total   Approve
Total Disapprove
Rob Ford
The box that reports "Strongly Approve" as 18 per cent gives us the size of Ford Nation while wildly desperately anti-Ford Nation aka "Strongly Disapprove" is more than double Ford approval at 43 per cent (which is getting close to 50 per cent for one choice available to poll respondents out of four alternatives).
2014 Mayoralty Race
The Ipsos survey also offered a variety of possible match-ups for a 2014 race.  One scenario is described this way:
In the fourth scenario – the tightest of them all—John Tory and Olivia Chow all face off against Ford, Stintz and Soknacki. The results are much closer than in the other scenarios with Olivia Chow (36%) edging out John Tory (28%), while Rob Ford (20%), Karen Stintz (13%) and David Soknacki (3%) are behind.
Note that Rob Ford in this scenario finishes third with 20%, about the same number who "Strongly Approve" of his performance. While I have my doubts about Tory entering the race Star columnist Bob Hepburn reported on November 14 "that growing numbers of Conservatives, finally fed up with Ford, are pressuring Tory to enter the election, slated for Oct. 27, 2014." Another Star report stated: "A two-part, two-hour campaign session Monday night at the Bloor Street East offices of FleischmanHillard was the clearest signal yet that Tory will run in next October’s municipal election." It is too early for the other numbers overall to be considered as generally other than soft indications.

Two additional points:

  1. I doubt that Stintz and Tory will both be in the race at the end. The one of those two who is in the running at the end will easily win over much of the support of the other.
  2. I also expect that Ford Nation, who disproportionately fit a low education, low income and older profile, will have a relatively low turnout. This will likely be amplified by the fact that the Fordites are bound to be discouraged by the diminishing political strength of their hero. In the end I would expect a highly competitive Chow-Tory or Chow-Stintz race with Ford Nation trailing in the dust.

One caveat about the poll: it is an online survey of 665 drawn from the Ipsos online panel, which is described on their website as having a membership of "over 200,000" in Canada.  However, Toronto despite its size only has about 8% of Canada's population.  This suggests that the sample was drawn from a panel of 15,000 to 25,000 of Toronto's estimated 2.8 million population.

While such surveys have achieved good results in the past (I think this poll gets the approval numbers about right), there have also been some polling fiascoes in the past couple of years. It is my view that we are entitled to know the size of the panel from which the sample was drawn, and as much about its methodology as possible, certainly more than we now know.  The media who sponsor many of these surveys should insist on it.