Toronto’s mayor is deeply unpopular.
The Toronto Star’s Robyn Doolittle:
A Forum Research telephone survey of nearly 13,000 people reveals that more than three-quarters of Torontonians want their local councillor to protect services rather than comply with the mayor’s wishes. And only 27 per cent of residents say they would vote for Rob Ford if an election was held tomorrow.
Forum Research is a respected pollster, but this poll — which is notable for just HUGE a sample it took, going far beyond what’s generally necessary for statistical accuracy — was paid for by CUPE Local 79, which is undoubtedly going to prompt supporters of the Ford administration to cry bias.
And they have a point. Looking at the poll questions, the one the Toronto Star highlights — “How much do you agree that your councillor should vote in the interests of protecting city services in your community, even if it conflicts with the wishes of Mayor Ford?” — is so leading as to render those specific results mostly irrelevant. Because what kind of person doesn’t agree with that statement? They might as well have asked if you want your councillor to be a spineless wimp or a super tough champion of the people.
Perspective is important with things like this, as it’s very likely a similarly-leading poll could come out that “supports” the mayor’s budget cuts. I’d bet they would see similar support numbers for a question like “Do you support an approach that will lead to balanced budgets this year and prevent large property tax increases?”
That said, the other two poll questions, which asked how views on Rob Ford have changed since the election and whether people would vote for Rob Ford if the election was held tomorrow, seem rather straightforward and free from bias. And the results are more insanely bad news for Rob Ford: a full 54% of respondents say their opinion of the mayor has “gotten worse” since his election and only 27% say they’d vote for him if an election were held tomorrow.
Speculation zone: Ford has lost a ton of support for two reasons. First, I don’t believe that there is a lot of support out there for the kind of budget cuts he’s left on the table. He needs to start speaking authoritatively about the budget to assure people that he does have a plan and that it won’t involve outright cuts to the things people care most about. More honesty and leadership would help a lot.
The second thing: pure overexposure. The mayor has been at the centre of a non-stop media cyclone since the day he took office. Every week brings us another wacky adventure, whether it’s the will-he-or-won’t-he storyline with Pride Toronto, the special all-nighter episode of the Executive Committee, the Jarvis bike lane saga or the recent let’s-sell-the-waterfront gambit. Ford desperately needs a month or two of relative quiet and calm at City Hall. But with this budget process sure to drag on for the next four or five months, there may not be a way for Toronto’s populist mayor to regain his popularity.