Ontario PCs lead amidst slight Liberal recovery and NDP slide

October 9, 2018

By Ihor Korbabicz

Premier Ford was swept into power by an intense desire for change incubated over a long stretch of provincial Liberal governments and under a historically disliked premier.

In Abacus Data’s first poll months since the Ontario PC win, we find that while most Ontarians still have negative views of the premier, few PC voters have buyer’s remorse and the PCs would be returned to office if an election was held today.

 PCs LEAD BY 7 AS NDP FALLS AND LIBERALS RISE

The Ontario PCs continue to command a lead over the other parties in the province.

36% of committed voters would vote PC (down 5 since the election), 29% would vote NDP (down 5) while Liberal support is up 5 to 24%.

PC support is fairly consistent across the province ranging from a high of 39% in the GTA (postal codes starting with L) to a low of 32% in Metro Toronto. The NDP is stronger in Metro Toronto and Northern Ontario, and trail both the PCs and Liberals in the region surrounding Toronto. The Liberals continue to struggle outside of the GTA and Metro Toronto.

PREMIER FORD CONTINUES TO BE POLARIZING, BUT HIS PERSONAL FAVOURABLE NUMBERS ARE UP WHILE HORWATH’S DECLINE

Our first poll last spring before the election found that about three in ten Ontarians had a positive impression of Doug Ford. Over the course of the campaign, that number shrank but has since recovered since the election.  That said, about half of Ontarians still have a negative impression of the Premier, largely unchanged since the week before E-day.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath, much as she was throughout the election campaign, is viewed more positively than negatively and has the best ratings of all provincial party leaders. Despite this, her positives are down 9 points to 35% since her peak at the end of May.

FEW SURPRISES FROM THE FORD GOVERNMENT

With some bold moves straight out of the gate- a notwithstanding clause here, a hydro one board firing there – most Ontarians say Doug Ford is governing about as they expected him to. This feeling holds true regardless of vote choice in the last election.

Those who voted PC in June say they are getting pretty much what they expected from the new government and Premier Ford.  Most NDP and Liberal voters feel the same way, but likely with a different set of emotions.

LITTLE BUYER’S REMORSE FROM SUPPORTERS OF FORD GOVERNMENT

Asked if they prefer the current PC government led by Doug Ford or would revert back to a Wynne-led Liberal government, more would opt for Ford and the PCs (58%) than go back to the previous Liberal government.

Not only would more continue to prefer a PC government over the previous Liberal one, many voters who did not vote PC say they prefer today’s Ford government over Wynne’s. Most notably, 36% of New Democrat voters say they would keep the current PC government instead of reverting back to the Liberals confirming that intense desire for change that swept the Wynne government from power.

WHAT NEXT?

Our campaign post-mortem in June found that half of the 28% of Ontarians who identify as capital “L” Liberals, voted for another party in the 2018 election. They defected to defeat a government they felt was stale. Our poll finds a small Liberal rebound as more of those partisans have come back into the Liberal fold.

But the overall status remains much like it was at the June election. The PCs hold a sizeable lead over the opposition, Premier Ford is a highly polarizing figure, but his supporters strongly back his agenda and the approach he’s taken to governing the province. Almost all of those who voted PC in 2018 (96%) would continue to prefer a PC government over the previous Liberal one.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath remains popular but has seen her numbers weaken over time and instead of consolidating anti-Ford sentiment behind the NDP, the opposition is more divided than during the election. Her ability to entrench the NDP as a government in waiting remains unclear at this point. Much may depend on the early victories she can score before the cameras turn towards an OLP leadership race potentially bolstered by a leader with less baggage and a rebuild & recover narrative. For now, the Ford government and the premier himself are polarizing but maintain a clear advantage thanks to a loyal and solid support base that has approved the new government’s first four months in office.

Methodology

The survey was conducted online with 1,500 Ontario residents aged 18 and over from September 30th to October 1st, 2018. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Ontario’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

About Abacus Data

Abacus Data is an innovative, fast-growing public opinion, data science, and marketing research consultancy. We use the latest technology, sound science, and deep experience to generate research-based advice to our clients.  We offer global research capacity with a strong focus on customer service, attention to detail and value-added insight.

Our team combines the experience of our Chairman Bruce Anderson, one of Canada’s leading research executives for two decades, with the energy, creativity and research expertise of CEO David Coletto, PhD.

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