Kelly Grant with the Globe & Mail:
Rob Ford enjoys a 60-per-cent approval rating, according to the first public poll released since he took office Dec. 1.
However, Toronto-based Forum Research, Inc. found that urban and suburban Torontonians remain deeply divided about Mr. Ford: His approval rating was highest in Scarborough (71 per cent) and North York (65 per cent) and lowest in the old cities of Toronto and East York (46 per cent.)
“That puts him higher than his vote, so somehow he’s got the approval of some of his opponents’ supporters, which I think is quite a task, especially given how polarizing the election was,” said Lorne Bozinoff, the president of Forum Research. “My gut feel is that’s a good rating.”
Always fun to see pollsters going by their “gut feel.”
Grant points out that while a 60% approval rating isn’t bad by any means, David Miller’s approval rating was 82% six months into his first term. Quick googling reveals that Miller’s approval ratings stayed very high until the garbage strike in 2009. In 2005, well into his first term, Miller sat at 69%.
More troubling is the nature of the poll questions. Forum Research asked respondents 11 questions about various policies. Of those, several of the questions are incredibly misleading, generally skewed toward pushing support for the mayor’s initiatives.
Here’s a quick breakdown, I’m assuming all questions began with “Do you agree with…” or “Do you support…” but that’s been omitted in the report.
- “The privatization of garbage collection for parts of the city” – A fine question. Notable that only 54% of people agree with this. I’d have pegged popular support at a higher level.
- “The mandatory 5 cent plastic shopping bag fee” – Another appropriate question. It’s hilarious how much older people hate this fee.
- “Declaring the TTC an essential service that would ban strikes and lockouts” – I don’t have a huge problem with this question, but I’d guess that rephrasing it as “Declaring the TTC an essential service, increasing labour costs related to transit” would see very different results.
- “Tearing down the eastern end of the Gardiner expressway” – Why even ask this? Has it come up at all? Was there more context given? A weird question.
- “Providing jobs for life for city employees” – This is where these questions go off the rails completely. They might as well have phrased as this “Do you support fatcat union members?”
- “Using private sector financing to pay for the Sheppard subway so it can be built sooner” – What the hell is this one? No one is proposing that private sector funds will get transit built on Sheppard faster than originally planned. The Sheppard East LRT would have been open in less than three years.
- “Spending $3 million to hire an outside consultant to look at ways to make the City more efficient?” – If there’s bad news for Ford in this poll, it’s this question. Only 38% of people support the move to hire an outside consultant. A fair question. (Interesting, too, that the $3 million dollars only become public knowledge at council on Thursday, February 24 – this poll went into the wild on Friday, February 25.)
- “Relaxing liquor regulations so that you can walk around with a drink at licensed events instead of having to stay in a beer tent?” – This is a provincial issue that doesn’t have anything to do with the City’s government.
- “Licensing bicyclists so that traffic laws can be enforced with them?” – Oh, screw off. I love the implication that traffic laws can’t be enforced with cyclists currently because of the lack of some kind of licensing program. Cyclists already are subject to the rules of the road. A municipal licensing program wouldn’t do anything to change that and would cost a ton of money.
- “In order to improve public transit, do you think more below ground subways or more above ground light rail streetcars should be built?” – No one is proposing more streetcar lines as Toronto knows them. A ridiculous question in the sense that even diehard Transit City supporters would probably be forced to answer for below ground subways. In an ideal world we’d have below ground subways everywhere.
- “Should the City build more City owned social housing units or should the City provide rent subsidies so those needing social housing can rent privately owned units instead?” – Not as egregious as some of the other questions but, again, there’s a clear skew here. The subtext is “Should the city keep spending YOUR TAX DOLLARS on public housing or should we just let the awesome private sector deal with it?” As I noted yesterday, Section Eight housing subsidies exist across the United States and still lead to the same issues we see with our public housing system — slumlords eagerly accept the subsidies while “nicer” market rental buildings refuse them.
In summary, this poll reveals primarily that Ford is currently a semi-popular mayor and little else. Anyone who can read some of the questions contained within this poll and feel like they’re an accurate representation of anything is kidding themselves.