The pandemic’s third wave in Ontario has been politically damaging to Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford, according to a new poll, but opposition parties have failed to capitalize on his pandemic slump.
The numbers suggest that, in the metaphorical horse race toward next June’s election, Ford maintains the lead as Ontario moves toward reopening and recovery.
Ford’s personal fortunes have slipped along with his party’s over the last two months, as his government was seen to hesitate before its most significant decisions, for example opening restaurants then abruptly closing them, and leaving schools open for a single day after an Easter weekend that was near the peak of a spike in new infections.
The result, according to the poll, is a steep drop in positive impressions and a mirror image spike in negative ones.
Back in March, 2021, before Ontario’s third wave took off, nearly two thirds of Ontarians thought Ford personally was doing at least a “somewhat good” job managing the pandemic, and just one third thought he was doing a bad job.
But now, when asked to consider Ontario’s management of the pandemic in terms of access to hospital care and emergency services, Ford’s personal numbers have tanked. The total of “somewhat good” and “very good” is beneath half at 44%. The total of “somewhat bad” or “very bad” is over half at 53%.
This 20-point swing in just a couple of months “has dragged down the government in terms of its political fortunes in the province,” said Andrew Enns, executive vice-president of Leger, which conducted the poll May 21 to 23.
“This pandemic is tricky, and it’s thrown almost all governments across the country for a loop. (Ford) has had a really hard April and I’d say he’s stabilized now into May but he’s got work to do to rebuild some of that capability perspective,” he said.
Ford won a majority in 2018 with a little over 40% of the vote. Back in March 2021, even with the grief of the lockdowns and a vaccination roll out that had yet to begin, he was still within striking distance of that benchmark, with voting intentions for his PC party at 38%
But now that has slipped to 34%, which for the PCs is “obviously not ideal” as Enns put it.
Voting intentions for the Liberal Party are at 26%, 25% for NDP, and 9% for Greens.
A lot of that shift is in impressions of the leaders. Ford’s personal “favourable” numbers were at 50% back in March. “For a guy that’s been on TV day in day out, rarely on good news, it’s quite extraordinary,” Enns said.
Now, that number has dropped to 38%. The other leaders have also seen their personal favourable impressions drop to a lesser degree since March. Opposition NDP leader Andrea Horwath is now at 36%, Liberal leader Steven Del Duca at 19%, and Green leader Mike Schreiner at 18%.
“Because Ford chose early on to be spokesperson, it’s going to be really interesting to see how that plays out as we move into that post-pandemic and recovery,” Enns said.
He said there is likely frustration in the other parties that they haven’t seen a commensurate surge against the flagging PC numbers. The NDP is in opposition with a seasoned leader, but has seen its intended vote share drop slightly since March.
“I think that’s troubling for them… Pandemic politics is tough for opposition,” Enns said, especially now that the narrative is likely to shift toward reopening.
The Liberals have gained slightly but still trail the NDP. Enns said other data suggests the Liberal vote is softer than the others, and Del Duca has the lowest overall awareness of the three major leaders
The poll was conducted online between May 21 and 23, with responses from 1,001 adults who live in Ontario, weighted for age, gender and region according to the 2016 census. Because they were not randomly selected, a true margin of error cannot be calculated, but a randomized poll with a similar number of respondents would have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.
Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques