It is unlikely that this week’s leaders’ debate will prove to be decisive moment in the election. Just 1-in-5 Ontarians tuned in. These findings come from INNOVATIVE’s latest online survey of 833 Ontario residents, weighted to n=700, conducted from May 17 to May 19, 2022.
Read, seen or heard
A majority of Ontarians say they did not read, see or hear anything related to the debate this week (55%). Just 2-in-5 Ontarians say they did (40%).
Of those who read, saw or heard something, just over half (54%) said they actually watched the debate.
For Ontarians who did read, see or hear something about the debate, Green leader Mike Schreiner stood out. About 1-in-4 said he did the best in the debate (24%) and over 1-in-3 said he performed better than they expected (36%). Schreiner’s numbers were even stronger among those who say they watched the entire debate.
NDP and Liberal partisans were particularly impressed with Schreiner, with majorities in each group saying he exceeded their expectations (60% and 51%, respectively).
About 1-in-4 (24%) who read, saw or heard something said PC leader Doug Ford did the best in the debate. 1-in-6 said Ford performed better than expected (17%), but 1-in-5 said he performed worse than expected (20%).
Importantly, Ford appears to have rallied his base, even if he did not grow it. 1-in-4 PC partisans said Ford did better than expected (25%), and just 3% of PC partisans said that he performed worse than they expected.
The debate was a missed opportunity for NDP leader Andrea Horwath. Less than 1-in-12 said she was the best performer (8%), and just 1-in-9 said she did better than expected (11%). About 1-in-4 said she did less well than expected (24%).
Horwath’s performance divided her own supporters. About 1-in-3 NDP partisans said Horwath exceeded their expectations (35%), but over 1-in-5 said she did less well than expected (22%).
Liberal leader Steven Del Duca did not rally his base the same way that Doug Ford did, but his performance was viewed as stronger than Horwath’s. Less than 1-in-10 said Del Duca did the best in the debate (9%), but those who watched the entire debate were likelier to say he was the best performer (16%).
1-in-3 Liberal partisans said Del Duca did better than they expected (33%), but over 1-in-7 said he did less well than expected (15%).
Following the debate, the PCs lead the Liberals by 8 points. Despite Andrea Horwath’s low debate marks, the NDP have closed the gap for second and trail the Liberals by just 2 points.
The leaders’ debate did little to move the needle. Mike Schreiner impressed a lot of progressive voters. Doug Ford did what he had to do with his base. Neither Del Duca nor Horwath appear to have done enough to break away in the progressive primary. The race for second remains tigh
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