Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mayor Rob Ford Is Headed For Defeat In 2014

Nothing is ever certain, but as it stands, Rob Ford would lose almost any conceivable election for Mayor if held today. It is not useful to cower in fear from the far overblown "Ford Nation" and act like Toronto is doomed to "Ford more years."  It isn't, and Ford should at this point be understood as the underdog.  The fading longshot.

Before I talk numbers, including the infamous Halloween poll which found his approval jumped 5% after the Police confirmed they have the crack video, it's useful to note that Rob Ford effectively campaigns all the time.  Only 2 opponents of his have announced, and neither is "campaigning" except to the extent Stintz can try to claim credit for the Scarborough subway extension.  The point here is that Ford is already doing his utmost to raise his numbers, and even before the crack scandal was barely keeping his head above water.  He hasn't been above 50% approval since his first few months in office. This isn't usual - David Miller had 69% approval as late as 2005, and was said to have "plummetted' to 43% after the garbage strike in 2009.  Way earlier, his approval was in the 80s. Mel Lastman was re-elected with 80% of the vote in 2000.  Municipal politics can be pretty easy, keep basic services running and keep reasonably clean and most voters will be fine with you.  Ford's even arguably done the former, yet failed so badly at the latter that, well, let's see...

The 31 October 44% Approval Poll Revisited

Initially there was some reason to doubt a poll taken on Halloween night when huge demographics are too busy handing out or gathering candy to take pollster calls, but several subsequent Forum polls find approximately the same 43-44% approval.  These same polls showing a 5% increase in Ford's approval to 44% also find 60% want him to resign.  That isn't just people who "disapprove" but actively think he should quit now.  Eric of 308 looks at this and figures that the Oct 30 poll finding Ford's approval at 39% is probably the outlier.

 About Forum's October 30th poll just the day before?  Couple items of interest:

 The key here is that the number of people very firmly negative on Ford is greater than the total number of supporters, even lukewarm ones.  Even if you conclude this poll is an outlier and add 5% to Ford's numbers.  Ford's "base" here is that 18% who think he might be one of Toronto's "best" mayors. 39% go into this election outright unpersuadable and basically no one is truly undecided.  There's nothing for Ford to work with here.

Ford has been pushing this nonsense for months now, and despite only some bloggers challenging it to that point (The Star weighs in since with an excellent effort in the genre), voters are generally rejecting it. Again, not helpful when trying to dig out from a personal scandal when your primary economic/fiscal argument is pre-rejected.

It gets worse, Forum also polled the subway/LRT question again on Oct 30 and this too is a nail in Ford's coffin:

This was supposed to be Ford's other big policy success and at best it's a wash.  It's really amazing that this happened given the almost total lack of an organized pro-LRT advocacy in the face of Ford's camp's, and the Provincial & Federal Tories lying about it.  That video of Matlow embarassing Ford in the May council debate went viral, and probably helped, but I really wonder if voters dislike Ford so much they questioned their own approval of subways in the face of his puerile "subways subways subways" jingoism.  Ford was going to ride his subway success to re-election but voters aren't nearly so keen on it as he thought.

Not Done Yet

Forum has been polling head-to-head matches of various kinds for several years, with various names against Ford, including 3 way and 4 way match ups.  Ford's troubles are much older than a crack tape:

Ford has lost EVERY poll against either Karen Stintz or Olivia Chow going back to early 2012.  He loses almost every match against John Tory too, meaning there are multiple people who can unseat him and one has already announced she's in (Stintz).  What about the dreaded vote-splitting in multi-way races?

Note the dates here - this is the same night as the 44% approval poll, and yet Ford only musters 33% against Stintz - a 7% drop in 24hrs.  Going back to the theory that the Oct 30 poll was an "outlier" in undersampling Ford supporters in some way, it's remarkable that the number of people prepared to vote for Ford is higher than the next night which finds this "jump" in his approval.    

Seven polls of 3-way races and Ford loses all but one.  Chow wins every poll when she's in it.  The news gets a little more ambiguous on the four-way races (though Ford usually doesn't win), I will only show one (lots more here) for discussion:

Again from the same night as the 44% approval and Ford ceilings at 33% support.  Tied with Chow, who as noted above is not actively campaigning. Unlike Ford.  

Four Way Finish Highly Unlikely

The key problem with 3 and particularly 4 way races is that they almost never finish that way.  It's the nature of first-past-the-post voting systems. 3rd and 4th place challengers usually get irrelevant and their support evaporates. They drop out entirely, or maybe limp to the finish with little money.  2010 was quite rare that Pantalone managed a double-digit third place finish.  Rocco Rossi, despite ample coverage dropped under 1% for 4th place. In 2003, 3rd place went to a pre-amalgamation Old Toronto Mayor, Barbara Hall, with under 10% and 4th at 5% to a pretty prominent former Liberal MP & cabinet minister, John Nunziata.  

You really don't find many viable 3-way races, and I didn't find any 4-way ones where 4th place took more than a small chunk of the vote.  Interestingly, 2003's split (with left candiate Hall in 3rd) still elected centre-left "downtown" candidate David Miller, so the idea that a split will re-elect Rob Ford is not some inevitability. 

What If Ford Goes To Rehab?

Forum (I wish someone else would poll Toronto) treated us the breathtaking revelation that "Ford wins races if he goes to rehab" in this November 6th release. 

Again Ford cannot even reach 40% support even if he goes to rehab. This of course is a big "if" and it requires some measure of success - Ford not only has to go to rehab, but he can't have a subsequent episode like the Danforth.  As above, this is the support of a candidate who is already campaigning for months against people who are respecting the laws governing when they can campaign. 

The Usual Anti-Polling Excuses

Of course these are just polls and the usual unthinking anti-empiricism can be thrown at them ("remember BC's election?"  "Tell that to Premier Danielle Smith in Alberta!").  You can ignore polling I guess, but then you have zero basis for predicting elections or even reading current voter opinions.  Polling isn't perfect, but it's what we have.
Ford can of course win re-election. Maybe. If the stars align.  If scandal befalls his closest rival.  If the Police suddenly announce his full exoneration in their investigation.  If, if, if.  A set of unlikely things has to happen to get Ford over the finish line.  But with scandals a daily event and no sign of stopping, and his primary policy arguments neutered even before his adversaries attack them, it's difficult to see where he can turn to.  None of this means you have to like Stintz, Tory or Chow but the main point here is that we can defeat Ford resoundingly, and maybe even knock off some of his main council allies & enablers.  That would be a defeat not just for Ford, but Fordism, the politics of urban/suburban division and hatred.  That alone would be a big improvement and worth working for.  It's time to think big and run the score.  Ford is losing and that can be used to make some real change on Council too.

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