The poll, conducted by Ipsos exclusively for Global News between April 29 and May 1, found that when asked which leader would make the best premier for the province, 41 per cent of Ontario voters named Ford.
When it comes to Ford, the poll found more men (47 per cent) than women (36 per cent) said he would make the best leader for the province.
What’s more, Ford also polled higher among older age groups, with 48 per cent of those 55 and older saying he would make the best premier. That number dropped to 42 per cent among 35 to 54-year-olds and 32 per cent among voters in the 18-34 age range.
According to the survey, Ford is also “running slightly ahead of his party,” with 41 per cent saying they prefer him as premier, compared to 39 per cent who said they are prepared to vote for the Progressive Conservative Party on election day.
Meanwhile, one in three of the poll’s respondents said Horwath would be the best premier for Ontario. According to the survey, that number rose among households earning under $40,000 to 41 per cent.
The survey also found 37 per cent of women versus 27 per cent of men said Horwath would make the best leader for Ontario.
The poll showed Horwath is running “well ahead” of her party, with 32 per cent of voters saying they prefer her as premier, while only 25 per cent said they would be prepared to cast their ballot for the Ontario NDP.
According to the survey, one in five respondents (21 per cent) said they believe Del Duca would make the best premier for the province.
Ipsos said while his scores are “lower than for the other two major party leaders among every demographic group studied,” they are “relatively higher” among those aged 18 to 34 at 25 per cent. However, that number dropped to 18 per cent among those between the ages of 35 and 54, and to 20 per cent among those aged 55 and older.
What’s more, the survey showed 31 per cent of those with less than a high school diploma said Del Duca would make the best premier. That number dropped to 24 per cent among those with a degree and to 17 per cent among those with some post-secondary education.
The same proportion (17 per cent) of those with only a high school diploma said he would make the best leader for Ontario.
The poll also found that Del Duca is falling behind his party. While 21 per cent said they think he should be premier, 26 per cent of voters said they are planning to cast their ballot for the Liberals.
Ford’s election to lose
Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, said at this point it’s “Doug Ford’s election to lose.”
Bricker said three years ago, at the beginning of his mandate as premier, it would have been “pretty hard to conceive” that Ford could be re-elected.
“He’s gone through a real transformation through the course of this pandemic that has improved his electoral prospects way beyond what they were prior to this pandemic,” he said.
Bricker said during Ford’s term, Ontarians have seen him doing “reasonably well,” but also “quite poorly.”
“The question is, which Doug Ford is going to turn up in this election campaign?” Bricker said. “And that’ll be the most interesting leadership feature that we’re going to see play itself out through the course of the campaign.”
Favourable versus unfavourable
When it comes to favourability, the survey shows Ford and Horwath are “virtually tied” at 34 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively.
Meanwhile, 18 per cent of voters see Del Duca in a favourable light, while 10 per cent of voters said they see Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner favourably.
Forty-three per cent of survey respondents said they see Ford in an unfavourable light, while 29 per cent said the same of Horwath.
The poll found 28 per cent of those polled saw Del Duca in an unfavourable light, while 16 per cent said they felt Schreiner was unfavourable.
According to the survey, a quarter of respondents said they don’t know enough about Del Duca to say whether they have a favourable impression of him or not. Only 14 per cent and four per cent said the same of Horwath and Ford, respectively.
Bricker said while Ford and Horwath are “well known” to Ontarians, Del Duca faces a “different type of challenge.”
“What happens during the course of an election campaign, is the leaders that are less well known get an opportunity to introduce themselves to the Ontario population,” Bricker said. “This first phase of the campaign for Steven Del Duca is really very much that process of introduction.”
Leadership strengths, weaknesses
According to the poll, Ontario voters think Ford’s leadership is most strongly associated with defending the province’s interests in Canada at 35 per cent, managing through tough times (33 per cent) and getting things done (33 per cent.) Thirty-two per cent of voters associated his leadership with managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey showed his lowest leadership attributes are guaranteeing affordable housing (20 per cent), providing an open, ethical and honest government (23 per cent) and being trustworthy (23 per cent).
The poll respondents said Horwath’s leadership was most strongly associated with some social issues, including health care (30 per cent), protecting minorities (29 per cent) and making housing more affordable (28 per cent.)
However, Ontario voters considered Horwath’s leadership weaker on spending taxpayer money wisely (20 per cent), effectively managing the province’s budget (20 per cent) and managing during tough times (20 per cent).
The poll found Del Duca has “only just begun to shape his leadership identity among the electorate.” Eight per cent of the survey’s respondents said he is someone they would like to have a coffee or beer with, while 15 per cent said he has the temperament and maturity to be premier.
Fourteen per cent of voters said Del Duca has shown a “willingness” to stand up for Ontario’s interests in Canada. The same proportion (14 per cent) said they believe he would spend taxpayer money wisely.
Bricker said the issue that is “really the most important for the opposition parties to really, really start picking up on” is affordability.
“Currently we see the NDP and the Conservatives tight on that,” he said. “If Steven Del Duca and the Liberal Party are to become competitive, then they’ve got to improve their numbers on making things more affordable for the middle class.”
METHODOLOGY: This Ipsos poll was conducted between April 29 and May 1, 2022, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of n=1,501 Ontarians aged 18+ was interviewed online (1,001) and by telephone (500). Quotas and weighting were employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the population according to census information. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would be had all Ontarians been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error.