Thursday, August 28, 2014

Is Ford back in the race?

Yesterday, rumours were swirling on Twitter that the next poll from Forum Research would show Rob Ford in the lead in the Toronto mayoral race. The rumours were half-right, at least according to the tea leaves of the poll published by the Toronto Star this morning.

Apparently, in Forum's two nights of polls on August 25 and 26, Ford was in a "statistical tie" with John Tory on the first night. Combine that with the rumours, and that probably means Ford was ahead on that first night. 

Note: the averages here remove undecideds from the equation, so that is why the results and the recent-highs/lows are somewhat different from what Forum has reported. Forum has not removed undecideds from its polls.

I took a look at this poll in detail for The Huffington Post Canada. Because of the waves the poll is likely to make today, I thought it worthwhile to highlight the piece here rather than post about a different topic entirely. I found a few issues with the results of the poll that might lead one to think we're looking at a blip that will be reset with the next poll. Regression to the mean and all that.

Now, one might accuse me of setting out to find reasons to doubt the poll. Those accusations would be completely accurate.

Whenever a new poll emerges that shows something unexpected or at odds with what other surveys have shown, those of us who look at these things have a responsibility to investigate whether the poll itself is the reason rather than to look for explanations in the real world first. Are these results terribly unusual? Not exactly - Ford is up four points among all voters, five points among decided voters. Significant but not unworldly. While Tory has led in the last few polls now, he hasn't run away with it, and Olivia Chow appears to be dropping. This is also the first poll since Karen Stintz withdrew from the race. It is perfectly rational that a candidate might make a move in these circumstances.

But Ford is not the candidate of rational politics. I can say with confidence that Canada has never seen a political figure like him before - at least one that actually stands a chance to be re-elected to high office. We all know what he has been alleged to have done, denied having done, was confirmed that he had done, has apologized for what he has done, and what he has done again to restart the whole cycle. That he could win is counter-intuitive, so we must investigate reasons for a surge in support in the poll itself before assuming enough Torontonians are willing to give him another chance.

The next polls will determine whether Ford has indeed put himself back into a position to potentially be re-elected. For now, we should proceed with caution.

27 comments:

  1. Ford's back and Olivia's in third!

    Torontonians are finally coming to their senses!

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    Replies
    1. Sense and Rob Ford go together like chalk and cheese.

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    2. Transit is the #1 issue in Toronto and the recent poll also showed that Fords transit plan was considered the best.
      People want subways in Toronto, yet Chow and Tory seem to be arguing about building LRT on Sheppard and Finch.

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    3. Subways are obviously the best way to go, it frees up road space above ground and keeps noise underground.

      LRTs are great if you can't afford subways but, are considerable more dangerous both to cars and especially pedestrians

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    4. LRTs are awesome for pedestrians. Here's an exercise.

      1. Jaywalk across Spadina, which has an LRT. 2. Jaywalk across Warden, which doesn't.

      Jaywalking across Spadina is a piece of cake, because the LRT median is an island of safety.

      Jaywalking across Warden is suicide.

      LRTs make roads safer for pedestrians.

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  2. A true three-way race. All three major candidates have placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd in polling throughout the year.

    Since Rob Ford is such an unusual phenomenon, I think it would be hard to predict how well he does. One could argue he is a very well organized candidate who has made strong connections with a segment of the voters. Nothing short of murdering somebody will hinder this support.

    One could also argue his campaign lacks any organization at all since his only high profile supporters are his brother and a couple of washed up personalities like Ben Johnson and rapper Snow. The Ford campaign also lost its voter database that helped them win their big victory in 2010.

    The Chow campaign has fizzled for some reason. I keep reading she peaked too soon. I don't know if I agree with that notion. Analysts on the right would claim that voters realize that she is a "socialist" and that's why her support went down. But I feel voters already know what they get with Chow before she launched her campaign, which is a return to the Miller era.

    I think Chow is a weak communicator. She is not doing much to energize her left wing base. All she talks about is increasing buses and helping children - good topics but you can't base your entire campaign on that.

    Tory is just a safe option, that's why his ceiling is so high. He can be whatever you want him to be. A progressive. A conservative. A suburban guy. A downtown guy. Pro-subway. Pro-LRT. Pro-small government. Pro-city building.

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    1. Big Jay,

      I think you're right Chow has a communications problem-she is a weak communicator.

      I don't think a Chow mayoralty would bring back the good old Miller days. My impression is that Miller is more of a fiscal conservative than Chow.

      Chow's campaign reminds me of Adrian Dix. It was launched when they were high in the polls-all they had to do was turn up to a couple of debates and stay out of trouble. Voters however, expect more than that-they want to know what a candidate will do or at least attempt

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    2. Not necessarily true. Denis Coderre spent his whole campaign for Montréal mayor saying nothing at all and not really presenting any idea to avoid stirring waters since he was the clear front runner. And he won.

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    3. The problem (from Chow's perspective) is that she's run a campaign in keeping with recent NDP campaigns - staking a claim to the middle and being inoffensive, and disavowing or being silent on any far-reaching progressive policies. With the presence of John Tory, middle-of-the-road voters won't take a chance on the newly-styled centrist Chow, and progressive voters are left wondering where the hell the committment to their policies and values went. Recipe for defeat.

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  3. This will not be a three-way race for long. Chow voters will get behind Tory faster than you can say "crackhouse" and and "gangbanger" and "blackmail" now that Tory has emerged as the alternative to Ford.

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    Replies
    1. That is plausible. There are three types of swing voters in this election. Populists that go between Ford and Chow, fiscal conservatives that go between Ford and Tory and moderate progressives that go between Chow and Tory.

      I could see moderate progressive types shift from Chow to Tory. While the leftist base and some populists stick with Chow.

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    2. How ironic that the left now has given up hope and will support a conservative.

      This really demonstrates that Toronto needs a party system like Vancouver or Montreal. The foisting of mayoral candidates by the Toronto left-wing cabal has failed spectacularly twice in a row. Imagine if the people of Toronto actually got to choose their mayoral candidates?

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    3. Mayoral races aren't about ideology. Mayors have very little power. Mayors are about being the face of the city. I don't think Chow is what Torontonians have in mind for that. Ford is just an embarrassment for all of Canada. All can say to Toronto is do what you have to do to get rid of him and put him back on the right-wing talk-radio circuit.

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    4. Guy, I must disagree, mayors have a lot of power. In fact, they have more power over their domain than provincial or federal members of government. Admittedly, Toronto is a special case in which, rightly, the mayor's powers can be checked by councillors more effectively than in other municipalities, but in their sphere they can enact a lot of change if they so desire.

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    5. Guy,

      Political parties do not have to be about ideology, they are simply a grouping of people. Often they are formed around common issues, in this campaign a party devoted to subways versus a LRT alternative party is conceivable.

      Ford's actions may be unusual you may consider him an embarrassment, however, I as evidenced in the recent provincial election Torontonians have a remarkable capacity for forgiveness.

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  4. Was he ever in the race? Just finished glancing at a 2012 Angus Reid poll that had his support and approval rating at 30%. Only 14% said they would 'definitely vote' for him. That's Ford Nation, and the poll was taken before the shit hit the fan so to speak, so it's much smaller today. I'm not sure what's wrong with Forum, but I believe they will be an extreme outlier once Ipsos, Angus, Abacus et al start reporting on a regular basis.

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  5. And the result of a Ford win ??

    Think about world reaction to Canada's major city !!

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    Replies
    1. Whether he wins or not. I'm sure the Rob Ford situation will be studied by political science types across the democratic world for sometime.

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    2. The people who pay for Toronto-home owners may get a tax break! The people who don't pay for the City may actually start to pay their fair share through higher fees.

      World reaction will be minimal. Toronto may consider itself a major world city and centre of the Universe but, the rest of the world consider Toronto a minor player. A nice place to visit once in a while on par with Providence.

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  6. Based on performance well before this election Ford would take this city into the absolute dumpster !!

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    1. You're right, a fiscally responsible Toronto where taxes on home owners are reasonable would be terrible. It could allow more families to move into the City. The average home owner spends about $5000 a year in property tax that is a sizable share of most families' disposable income.

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  7. Today's Toronto Star

    Tory 42
    Ford 28
    Chow 26

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    Replies
    1. Your candidate Chow is losing badly! Looks like Toronto will elect another Conservative as mayor!

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  8. Éric,

    I thought Chow was in free fall the minute I heard that her campaign was purportedly trying to put distance between themselves and Warren Kinsella. When you start separating yourself from your own political and strategic heavyweights -- that's like shooting off your own nose despite your face. The only logical thing that can then comes to mind is "down, down, down, baby" as John Crosbie might say!

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    1. Well Ron I tend to agree but what's really interesting is that sure Chow has sunk but the distance to Ford hasn't changed despite the surge by Tory!!

      Which tells me Chow supporters have fled to Tory. Now if some of those Ford idiots also shift we could see Chow end up second ??

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    2. Those Ford "idiots" aren't going to vote for a candidate whose supporters consider them "idiots"! Usually insulting people will decrease a candidate's polling potential.

      Your comment demonstrates why Ford does so well even after multiple snafus-Ford respects voters, his team doesn't take any vote for granted. Judging by your comment Peter, Olivia's supporters and team do take voters for granted-they think Chow should win by default or divine providence or entitlement.

      Chow may not need the 30% of Torontonians who support Ford to win but, as a potential mayor she does need to give them respect. If she wins she will be the mayor for all Torontonians.

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