Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives have a comfortable lead over their Liberal and New Democrat rivals in a new poll of Ontario voters published Wednesday.
Polling conducted last week by Abacus Data finds 37 per cent of respondents supporting Ford and the Ontario PC Party, with 28 per cent favouring the Ontario Liberals under Steven Del Duca and 25 per cent backing Andrea Horwath’s NDP.
“If you’re the PCs and you’re looking at this number right now, you’re feeling pretty good, I think,” said David Coletto, the CEO of Abacus Data, in an interview.
The vote split between the Liberals and the NDP is “allowing the Tories to go up the middle pretty easily,” said Coletto. “Unless one of those two parties is able to consolidate much more of that vote, the Tories are going to continue to be in the driver’s seat as they get closer to the spring and the [June 2] election.”
The Green Party of Ontario is the choice of five per cent of those polled, and another five per cent said they would support another party.
The PC lead in the Abacus poll comes even though 46 per cent of respondents said they have a negative impression of Ford and 50 per cent said it’s time for a change in government.
“There is widespread dissatisfaction with the Ford government and Premier Ford himself, although not to the extent it was prior to the pandemic,” Coletto wrote in a summary of the poll’s results.
The poll by Abacus Data of 1,210 voters was conducted Jan. 7 to 12 using a sample of online respondents. The data were weighted to ensure the sample was representative of Ontario’s demographics of age, gender, region and level of education. A margin of error does not apply to surveys using an online sample, however for a random sample of the same size, the margin of error is +/- 2.9%, 19 times out of 20.
Asked to rank the top three issues facing the province, the COVID-19 pandemic unsurprisingly came out on top, with 60 per cent of respondents putting it among their priorities.
The rising cost of living was chosen as a top-three issue by 50 per cent, the healthcare system by 43 per cent and housing affordability by 39 per cent.
Likely the poll’s most worrisome finding for Ford and his PCs is how the respondents view the government’s handling of those top issues.
- 67 per cent said Ford and the government are doing a poor or very poor job of dealing with the rising cost of living, and only nine per cent said they’re doing a good or very good job.
- On housing affordability, 65 per cent said poor or very poor job, while nine per cent said good or very good
- 50 per cent gave the government poor or very poor marks on handling the COVID-19 pandemic, while 22 per cent said good or very good, and another 25 per cent said acceptable
How to rein in the cost of living and the cost of housing are big challenges, and voters will want all the parties to have answers, said Coletto.
“People are looking for for some relief as these prices continue to go up and people feel their wages aren’t following,” he said.
Asked for their impression of Ford, 32 per cent of those polled by Abacus said it’s positive. That’s similar to Ford’s 30 per cent approval rating reported this week by the Angus Reid Institute in its quarterly poll on Canada’s premiers.
Horwath also has a positive impression among 32 per cent of voters in the Abacus poll.
Del Duca’s struggle to get on the radar with voters is reflected in the results, with 62 per cent of those polled saying they don’t know him well or much at all.
Twenty-six per cent of the respondents said their impression of Del Duca is negative and 20 per cent said positive, with the rest choosing “neutral” or “don’t know.”
Another of Del Duca’s challenges: Ontarians who voted for Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party in the federal election only a few months ago appear to be less loyal to the provincial wing of the party than Conservative and NDP supporters.
More than 80 per cent of those who voted Conservative or NDP federally in September told the pollsters they will vote for the PCs or NDP provincially.
Among federal Liberal voters, only two-thirds said they will vote for the Ontario Liberal Party. The remainder are split, with the PCs and Ontario NDP each capturing 16 per cent of those who voted for Trudeau’s Liberals last fall.
The poll shows support for the PC Party among those aged 60 and older at more than double its support among 18 to 29-year-olds. “In an environment where younger electors are less likely to turn out, this is a definite advantage for Doug Ford and the PCs,” Abacus writes in its summary of the results.
Abacus is posting the full results of its poll on its website.
Its findings on the overall race between the parties are quite similar to those in a December poll by Leger Marketing, commissioned by Postmedia, which put Ford and the PCs at 38 per cent of decided voters. The NDP was in second place in that poll at 28 per cent, followed by the Liberals at 25 per cent.