EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct poll numbers for the New Democrat and Liberal parties.
According to a Forum Research telephone poll conducted on Sunday, 48 per cent disapprove of Ford, the former Toronto city councillor named leader over the weekend following a chaotic convention.
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Over a third say they approve of Ford as PC leader, and 16 per cent said they didn’t know, the poll found.
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One fifth of those polled who identified as Tory voters said they were not on board with Ford’s leadership.
Despite those numbers, support for the party remains strong among decided voters, the poll found. If an election were held today, 44 per cent would vote for the Tories, while the NDP would get 27 per cent and Liberals would come in at 23 per cent.
Forum Research said that would translate to the PCs earning 84 of 124 seats in the June election. The New Democrats would form the Opposition with 29 seats, and the Liberals would hold onto just 11 seats.
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At the same time, the poll showed that nearly half (48 per cent) of respondents said they were less likely to vote for the Tories with Ford as leader. Twenty per cent said they were more likely to support the party.
“Doug Ford’s leadership of the Progressive Conservatives has polarized Ontarians, with half saying they are less likely to vote for the party in the next election,” Forum research president Lorne Bozinoff stated in a news release on Monday.
“However, four in 10 would still vote for Ford’s Conservatives, more than enough to propel Ford into the premier’s office, with a healthy majority. Despite the positive numbers for the Conservatives under Ford, it seems that Ontarians are not so much accepting Doug Ford and his leadership, as they are rejecting the other alternatives.”
The results of the Forum poll are in step with an Ipsos poll conducted last month that showed the PCs enjoying strong support — 38 per cent of the vote — despite having endured weeks of tumult following the resignation of Patrick Brown.
Doug Ford is the son of businessman and former Tory MPP Doug Ford Sr. He served one term as a Toronto city councillor and then stepped up to run for Toronto mayor in 2014 after his brother, the late former mayor Rob Ford, had to drop out of the race.
Sean Simpson, vice-president of Ipsos, suggested Ford’s loss to John Tory won’t have much bearing on his chances provincially.
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“In the City of Toronto, his support was in the suburbs and John Tory’s support is downtown,” he told Global News on Monday. “And the Conservatives in the provincial election aren’t going to win any seats downtown anyway, they’re not counting on winning seats there, and they don’t need to win seats there.”
“Where they need to win seats is in the suburbs of Toronto and in the 905 region in particular. That more populist message, working for families, etc., all of those things that Doug Ford tries to communicate, those messages are popular and resonate in those regions.”
He said Ford’s connection to his brother serves to solidify public opinion — either for or against him as a candidate.
“Some people really like the Ford family brand, that’s why he was able to win a leadership campaign against other candidates who would have been less risky for the party. For those that don’t like the Ford brand, and were maybe considering voting for the Tories if it was another leader, now that Doug’s in the chair, they may say, ‘I just can’t do it.'”
Simpson expects a low turnout at the polls “given a dislike of the premier and a polarizing, divisive candidate on the Tory side.”
The poll is based on responses to an interactive phone survey of 923 Ontario residents. Results based on the total sample are considered accurate within plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20. Within subsamples such as age or gender, Forum says the results are less accurate. The pollster said the data has been statistically weighed where appropriate to reflect the province’s demographic makeup according to Census data.
— With files from Global News reporter Maham Abedi