Friday, November 01, 2013

How popular is Rob Ford?

I have seen expressions of dismay by many after the latest Ford fiasco that express the notion that the man retains his popularity despite all his foibles, violations of ethics and general incompetence. When I examine the evidence I see a mayor who, while more popular than he should be given all this misbehaviour, nevertheless is not popular and has no chance of being re-elected.

Most of the polling evidence comes from the firm Forum research.  Forum uses IVR (Interactive Voice Response) telephone methodology meaning most of the population has a chance of being contacted (unlike online polls). However, it does mean their surveys are short.

Just prior to the latest Ford news, Forum released a poll on October 30th that includes a table with results of Ford's approval/disapproval from earlier surveys plus a new set of questions that gives us a more detailed picture of Ford's popularity.  This most recent survey reported that 61% disapproved of the job Ford is doing as mayor compared to 39% who approved.

Since early in his tenure more residents of Toronto have disapproved of Ford than approved. Averaged over the whole period about 56% disapprove of his performance while 44% approve.  Forum does not ask if respondents strongly or somewhat approve or disapprove of Ford.  This means that this way of measuring opinion lumps together those who feel strongly with those who aren`t really certain.

However, a more probing question by Forum in its latest poll asked respondents to rate Ford offering multiple choices, including whether he was the best or worst mayor the city had ever had, a good or poor mayor, or somewhere in between.  This gives us a better idea of his real status.

Here is a table of the results

Good or Best 36
Poor or Worst 54
One of Toronto's best mayors 18
Good mayor 18
Neither good nor poor  9
Poor mayor 15
One of Toronto's worst mayors 39
Don't know 1

So let`s look more closely.  Almost 40% are willing to say that they think Rob Ford is one of Toronto`s worst mayors. Presumably they might vote for almost anyone to get rid of him.  In addition another 15% think he has been a poor mayor for a total of 54%.  One can see the real size of the so-called Ford Nation here: it is the 18% who say that he is one of Toronto`s best mayors.  That is enough support to make noise and provide suitable candidates for the streeters local media insist on including in their coverage, but not enough to win the mayor`s race in 2014.

In addition an August 31, 2013 Forum poll offered up trial heats of Ford against potential opponents Olivia Chow, John Tory and Karen Stintz who is not well known yet but has declared her entry into the race. The survey found that Ford would lose to all three, the first two by big margins while the Stintz race would be close, and would finish third in a contest featuring Olivia Chow, John Tory and Rob Ford.

While a campaign will matter it is Ford`s record that will most determine his fate next year. A final reminder: all these numbers preceded the disclosure by the police that they had the Ford crack video. Ford Nation will no doubt be unmoved but there aren`t enough of them to matter.