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McGuinty narrowly wins debate, Horwath impresses: exclusive new poll

TORONTO – Premier Dalton McGuinty was the winner of Tuesday night’s Ontario leaders’ debate, according to an exclusive new poll, but it was NDP leader Andrea Horwath that really impressed the voters.

In an online survey conducted by Ipsos Reid for Global News, 33 per cent thought the Liberal leader performed the best, while 29 per cent favoured Horwath, and 25 per cent thought PC leader Tim Hudak won the debate.

However, the NDP leader made the biggest impression of the night. Polling before the debate showed only 14 per cent thought Horwath would win.

Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, says this could give Horwath momentum similar to what Jack Layton picked up during the federal leaders’ debate in April.

“He improved impressions, especially in likeability, and that seems to be what Horwath did tonight,” says Bricker.

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“The question is, between now and October 6, whether or not she has the ability to convert any of this momentum into votes.”

Horwath also came out on top in other areas, with 35 per cent agreeing that she offered the best ideas and policies in the debate. That was 10 points higher than in the pre-debate poll. One in three (32%) thought McGuinty led in the policy department, while 27 per cent thought Hudak had the best ideas.

The NDP leader was also picked as the most likeable after the debate by a majority (52%) of those polled. That was also up from the pre-debate impression, where only 44 per cent thought she was the most likeable.

McGuinty did impress in one specific category. Half of the respondents (49%) thought he sounded and acted most like a Premier, although that was slightly down from the 53 per cent who thought that before the debate.

Bricker says the two-term premier did about as well as people expected he would in the debate.

“Clearly, he didn’t do anything that could be presented as a game-changer,” Bricker says.

The post-debate online poll surveyed 1470 respondents and has a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points. The pre-debate poll surveyed 1687 respondents and has a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points.