Premier and Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford begins the Ontario election campaign ahead of NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal leader Steven Del Duca on a wide range of leadership attributes, including who would make the best premier. These are the findings of INNOVATIVE’s latest online surveyof 1409 Ontario residents, weighted to n=1000, conducted from April 27th to May 2, 2022.
A plurality of Ontarians still believe Ford would make the best premier (28%), well ahead of Horwath (18%) and Del Duca (12%). About 1 in 4 are still uncertain who would make the best premier (27%).
Ford also leads on several personal attributes, highlighting the strength of his personal brand among voters. The Premier is well ahead of Horwath and Del Duca on leadership, honesty, competence, delivering change, and compassion. At the same time, a plurality of Ontarians also believe that “flip flops” (42%) and “makes unrealistic promises” (32%) describe Ford better than his challengers. Asked which leader is “too negative”, Horwath (30%) leads Ford (17%) by double digits.
While Ford is ahead on leadership and competence, he has lost some of his advantage over the past 18 months. Just 32% say Ford is the strongest leader, down from a peak of 43% in late 2020. Just 28% say Ford is the most competent, down from 38% in late 2020. However, Ford’s losses have not been Horwath or Del Duca’s gains.
In 2018, Ontarians were much likelier to say that Doug Ford (34%) was more negative than Andrea Horwath (12%). Those numbers have been reversed, with 30% saying Horwath is too negative and just 17% saying Ford is too negative.
Overall, Ford scores highest on many positive attributes, and the scores are aligned with the proportion of Ontarians (28%) who think he would make the best premier. Horwath’s key vulnerabilities are being “too negative” and “making unrealistic promises”, but many of her positive attributes are consistent with the number of Ontarians who think she would make the best premier (19%). Del Duca currently shows little hope of making any gains; none of his scores for positive attributes exceed the proportion of Ontarians who think he would make the best premier (12%).
Clustering Ontarians into six major groups based on their shared values reveals some surprising personal strengths for Ford. On positive attributes, Ford has strong leads among Deferential Conservatives and Populist Conservatives. He also has a comfortable lead on all positive attributes with Business Liberals and most positive attributes among both Left Liberals and Thrifty Moderates. Horwath is ahead of Ford and Del Duca on positive attributes with the Core Left.
Andrea Horwath appears to have carved out a distinct identity that overcomes partisan lean. Both NDP partisans and non-NDP partisans alike describe her as “hardworking” and “intelligent”, though non-NDP voters are also likelier to describe her as “careless” and temperamental”.
Ford is likelier to be described as “hardworking”, “practical”, “confident”, and “tough” among PC voters, and likelier to be described as “careless” and “temperamental” by non-PC voters.
Del Duca is likelier to be described as “hardworking”, “intelligent”, and “organized” by Liberal voters, and likelier to be described as “careless” and “cold” by non-Liberal voters.
A majority of Ontarians with a broad range of value sets score Doug Ford higher than his competitors on many positive attributes, most notably leadership. While Ford and Horwath each have a mix of strengths and vulnerabilities, Del Duca has more vulnerabilities and far fewer strengths.