Ontario PCs rebound despite RCMP investigation starting
October 18, 2023
From October 10 to 15, 2023, Abacus Data conducted a survey of 1,000 Ontario adults exploring their views on provincial politics and government. This survey was part of our regular national omnibus surveys.
If a provincial election was held today, the PCs would likely win another majority government with 40% of decided voters saying they would support the PCs (up 6 since last month) followed by the Ontario Liberals and NDP who are tied for second at 24% apiece.
The rise in PC support is mostly the result of a drop in support for the Liberals and NDP and a rise in undecided voters (from 20% to 27%) than a substantial surge in PC support.
Regionally, the PCs are well ahead in Toronto, the GTHA, and in southwestern Ontario while competitive with the Liberals in eastern Ontario and competitive with the Liberals and NDP in Northern Ontario.
Since August, the Ford government’s approval rating is unchanged with 30% approving and 47% disapproving.
When we asked respondents a similar question we started asking about the federal Liberal government about a desire for change, only 20% of Ontarians believe that Doug Ford and the PCs deserve to be re-elected. 47% think it’s time for a change and there’s a good alternative while 33% believe it’s time for a change but don’t think there’s a good alternative to Doug Ford and the PCs. A clear indication that neither the Ontario NDP or Ontario Liberals have firmly established themselves as an alternative government in waiting.
Digging deeper in the Greenbelt saga, we asked a question we have asked twice before – whether the decisions the Ford government is making are primarily about what’s in the best interest of Ontarios or are primarily in the interest of his friends and supporters. This month, those who are unsure has increased by 6-points but a majority (56%) continue to believe that Ford is making decisions primarily in the interest of his friends and supporters.
Now when respondents were told that Ford reversed his government’s decision to swap land in the Greenbelt for development, 62% felt it was the right decision (including 68% of past PC voters). Only 16% felt it was the wrong decision.
When asked whether the Greenbelt decision was part of a bigger problem with Doug Ford and the PC government or an isolated incident, 52% felt it was part of a bigger program while 24% thought it was an isolated incident and 24% were not sure or did not know. Noteworthy, 1 in 3 past PC supporters believe the Greenbelt decision reflects a bigger problem with Ford and his government.
Finally, this survey was conducted after news broke that the RCMP had opened up an investigation into how the Greenbelt deals were handled. Over the period the survey was conducted (October 10 to 15), about 1 in 4 Ontarians hadn’t heard the news yet. Another 44% are aware but not following it closely while 27% are following news of the RCMP investigation either pretty or very closely.
According to Abacus Data CEO David Coletto: “The Progressive Conservatives (PCs), under Doug Ford, appear to have arrested a decline in their popularity, which could be attributed in part to Ford’s reversal and subsequent apology over the Greenbelt saga. Although the PCs have witnessed an uptick in the vote share among decided voters, this increase is more a consequence of falling support for both the Ontario Liberals and NDP and an increase in the undecided voter demographic rather than an inherent rise in PC popularity.
Regionally, the PCs enjoy dominance in Toronto, the GTHA, and southwestern Ontario. However, when it comes to voter sentiment, only 20% feel that the PCs deserve reelection, indicating a prevailing undercurrent of discontent and a significant desire for change. While 47% desire a change and identify the presence of a viable alternative, a significant 33% wantchange but feel there’s no worthy substitute. This suggests that neither the NDP nor the Liberals have been able to position themselves as a credible alternative, reflecting a potential vacuum in opposition leadership, and one that may resolve itself once the Liberals elect their new leader later this year.
Diving into the Greenbelt issue, a majority (56%) still perceive Ford’s decisions as being influenced more by the interests of his friends and supporters rather than those of Ontarians. This sentiment could have been a contributing factor to the declining support in earlier polls.
However, Ford’s decision to reverse the Greenbelt land swap received overwhelming approval, with 62% agreeing it was the right call. It’s evident that this move has helped to mitigate some of the political fallout from the scandal. But, on assessing if this was a singular misstep or indicative of a broader pattern of governance, 52% felt it pointed to a more significant problem, highlighting that while the reversal was well-received, deeper issues of trust persist – albeit with only a slight majority of people in the province.
Notably, awareness surrounding the RCMP investigation into the Greenbelt deals remains relatively low; almost a quarter of Ontarians are still unaware, and only 27% are closely monitoring the developments. Should charges be laid as a result of this investigation, it’s uncertain how this might further impact the PCs’ standing and whether this would provide the necessary momentum for opposition parties to gain traction.”
The survey was conducted with 1,000 eligible voters in Ontario adults from October 10 to 15, 2023. A random sample of panelists were 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 margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20.
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.
This survey was paid for by Abacus Data Inc.
Abacus Data follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements that can be found here: https://canadianresearchinsightscouncil.ca/standards/
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