New tracking from an INNOVATIVE online poll of 481 Ontarians shows that while Doug Ford has fallen in April, his critics have yet to him out.
The spotlight still shines strong on Ontario politics with 76% paying attention. This is an unusually high level of attention which creates a knock rare potential for attitude change that is likely to stick until the election.
What Ontarians are hearing now is slightly less negative than in recent weeks, although there are still more than twice as many people left feeling less favourable than more favourable towards the provincial government.
Approval of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is up marginally but disapproval has become more intense with one-in-three (32%) Ontarians now saying they strongly disapprove. However, the gap between COVID-19 approval and overall approval has closed with overall approval of the Ontario government Similarly, 32% of Ontarians are now very dissatisfied with the overall performance of the provincial government down 6 points to 39%.
Ontarians are increasingly conflicted regarding restrictions. At 30%, more Ontarians than ever say the current restrictions are too tight. However, even more (38%) still say they are too loose.
Ford’s problem is more about the big picture than specific actions. Slightly more Ontarians support (39%) rather than oppose (36%) his recent plans to combat the spread of COVID-19. However, a majority (59%) believe the controversies are a sign of deeper problems including 38% of PC identifiers.
Diving deeper, we find 74% say the Ontario government was warned in February that cases could spike now without strong action. A majority of 60% say that the government’s decision to loosen restriction against expert advice is directly responsible for the spike in cases we see today. A majority (70%) of PC identifiers agree with the government was warned and more Tories agree (43%) than disagree (31%) the government decision are directly responsible for the spike in cases.
That said, 42% agree that “Doug Ford has accepted responsibility for his mistakes and is taking steps to do better.” A strong majority (68%) of PC identifiers agree while 19% disagree. The number who disagree and the passion with which they disagree has declined over the past week.
As the government’s decline in COVID-19 attitudes has flattened, so has the Ford PC’s political decline.
Ford favourables are marginally up from last week with 32% of Ontarians now saying they have a favourable impression of him. However, his best to be Premier score is marginally down to 26% with undecided now the most common response (28%).
The Ontario Liberals continue to hold a narrow lead on vote, as they have all month, but they have not been able to grow it. Currently, 36% of decided voters say they would vote for the Ontario Liberals while only 32% say they would vote for the PCs.
One key voter segment for Doug Ford are the Deferential Conservatives. The PCs have the support of just under half (46%) of these voters who values predispose them to PC support. These voters are low-hanging fruit for the PCs when issues shift to government spending and the economy. Another key group are Economic Strugglers who will revert to pocket book concerns when COVID passes.
For now, the fight isn’t over. Engagement with Ontario politics is high and we see deep conflict among swing voters who see both blame and contrition when they look at Doug Ford. The question is can Ford stay upright until the spotlight shifts and he can make his way back to his corner, or will his critics land the knock-out punch first.