Friday, April 18, 2014

The Toronto Mayoralty Race: Does Ford have a chance to win?

Rob Ford kicked off his 2014 re-election campaign last night at the Toronto Congress Centre, which is located not far from Toronto's western boundary.  In the middle of Ford's speech according to this tweet, the hall looked like this from the back:

Rob Ford Campaign Launch April 17, 2014
According to the Toronto Star report on the event there was "no crowd estimate but about half of the 290 tables set up in the cavernous centre were empty." Another estimate I saw suggested a crowd of 2000. Regardless, if your campaign manager can only partly fill the venue for your campaign launch he should be fired. This may be difficult if the manager is also your brother Doug.

The media coverage of this fiasco was, in TC's view, generous to Ford to a fault, not at all what one might expect from the evil media elite. And inevitably there was another media story, this one from, suggesting Ford could win despite currently trailing in the polls. Anyone who has read this blog before will know that TC does not believe this will happen.

The new Forum poll released April 15 and alluded to above does have some interesting findings beyond the top line voter preference numbers all of which point clearly to a Ford defeat.

Let's look at them in turn.  Here is how Forum summarizes the race in their press release:
TORONTO APRIL 15th, 2014 ‐ In a random sampling of public opinion taken by the Forum Poll™ among 882 Toronto voters, one third would vote Olivia Chow for mayor if the municipal election were held today (34%), while a quarter or just more would vote either Rob Ford (27%) or John Tory (24%). Neither Karen Stintz (6%) nor David Soknacki (4%) are contenders. Very few have no opinion in the race (5%).
On the face of it Ford is in second place 7 percentage points behind leader Olivia Chow, apparently still well within range. However, there are other numbers and questions in the survey that help us understand the race. For example, one question simply asked respondents if they would vote for Ford in the municipal election in October or not.

Will vote for Rob Ford               29%
Will not vote for Rob Ford         63%
Don't know                                  8%

Another question asks "Which candidate would you never vote for?"  This is an interesting question because of its declarative emphasis. It is a good question for eliciting strong feelings. Of those expressing an opinion (I am excluding the "Don't Know" here) 56% say they would never vote for Rob Ford; the only other candidate who evokes negative feelings to any degree is Olivia Chow who comes in at 29%. The winner here is John Tory as only 3% say they would never vote for him.

These two responses illustrate what should be obvious: Ford is a highly polarizing figure. A large part of the electorate is clearly going to do whatever seems necessary to defeat him.

I have seen many news stories which report that Ford still has a reasonably strong approval rate. This survey includes approval numbers for all candidates so we can directly compare Ford's approval numbers to his opponents.  Here are the results:

Ford  Stintz Tory Chow Soknacki
Approve 46 46 65 60 47
Disapprove 54 54 35 40 53

Seen from this perspective both Tory and Chow have much higher approval ratings than the mayor. They are the two strong candidates in this race. Unless Karen Stintz and David Soknacki can start moving their numbers up soon they are likely going to be forced from the race by September.

It appears highly likely that there will be an Ontario election this summer, which will put the mayor's race on hold and, depending on the outcome, could have an impact of the results. Restarting the race in the dog days of August is not likely to work well for the minor candidates.

My view is that come fall there will be a competitive race for mayor between John Tory and Olivia Chow with Ford trailing. Depending on campaign dynamics either Tory or Chow could win although Chow has the edge now. Ford Nation is, compared to supporters for other candidates, generally lower income and less well-educated. My view is that poll results in the autumn will discourage turnout among an already low turnout group, meaning Ford's actual vote is likely to trail his share in the polls.