Vote Compass: Many women don't trust Doug Ford, a potential problem for PCs in key ridings

Doug Ford ranks as the least trustworthy of the four main party leaders among women, according to data from CBC's Vote Compass survey, a gap that could prove costly for the Tories on election day.

Ford scored lower among women on trust than any other party leader

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne, centre, Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford, left, and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath stand together before the start of the first debate in early May. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford ranks as the least trustworthy of the four main party leaders among women, according to data from CBC's Vote Compass survey, a gap that could prove costly for the Tories on election day. 

Respondents were asked to score, on a scale of zero to 10, how trustworthy they believe each of the leaders to be. The results, derived from a total of 83,673 people, were then broken down by sex. About 58 per cent of the respondents were men, while 42 per cent were women. 

The average score for Ford among women was 1.6, and 59 per cent of all women scored him at zero out of 10. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath ranked first among the leaders, with an average score of 5.9 among women, while Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne averaged a score of 3.

Men found Ford to be more trustworthy than women did, with an average score of 2.8 out of 10, but Horwath still outscored him, with an average of 5.5. 

About 59 per cent of women surveyed scored Doug Ford's trustworthiness at zero, out of a possible 10. His average score among women was 1.6 out of 10.

When asked to score the perceived competency of each leader, Ford fared only slight better with women. The average response was 1.9, and some 49 per cent of all women assigned him a zero score. Horwath came out on top in this category as well, with an average score of 5.9.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath ranked as the most competent and most trustworthy of all the leaders among both women and men.

"If only men were voting, I think the PCs would pretty clearly win this election," said Barry Kay, an associate professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University. Kay contributes to a real-time map of seat projections published by the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion.

"But Doug Ford just has not connected as a political figure with women," he said. The data suggests that "women are the people who the [PCs] have failed to close the deal with.

"Clearly, it's having an impact on the election."

If Ford is unable to connect more strongly with women before June 7, it could cost the PCs ground to the NDP in critical ridings in regions like the 905. The 905, with its relatively large proportion of seats, will likely determine which party forms Ontario's next government, and whether it does so with a majority in the legislature. 

'Doug Ford's persona' likely hurting PCs, professor says 

While women tend to poll "to the left" of men, the difference between their average scores for the competence and trustworthiness of Ford versus Horwath is significant, said Charles Breton, research director at Vox Pop Labs, which created the Vote Compass survey tool.

 "A 1.6 and a 1.9 average out of 10 for those scores, that is … not great," he said.

Kay notes that the PCs have so far run a campaign focusing on the brand power of the Ford name and the leader's enduring popularity among those who identify as followers of "Ford Nation."

This week, facing polling that suggests they have lost a commanding lead over their political rivals, the PCs switched gears. The morning after the last televised leaders' debate, Ford attended a roundtable meeting with 12 marquee Tory candidates. Notably, Ford was flanked by Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney, both candidates he defeated to secure the party's leadership.

This chart shows the vote intention among the 12,510 respondents who filled out the Vote Compass survey from May 25 to May 29, 2018.

It was likely a deliberate attempt to showcase other candidates, especially women, on the PC team.

"The PCs had a lock on this election just a month ago and the whole thing has gone south. It's hard to point to anything other than Doug Ford's persona," Kay said.

"The fact is that women are much more concerned, much more skeptical and apprehensive about what a Doug Ford government looks like. And I think that's the dynamic that has really taken hold over the last month. If they had gone with Christine Elliott, I think it would have been over now," he said. 

Other gaps dividing the sexes

Of the 30 statements that Vote Compass respondents are asked to evaluate, the following was the most polarizing: "Ontario should require that public corporations have a certain proportion of women on their boards." 

Among women, 63 per cent agreed, either somewhat or strongly, with the statement. That's more than double the 31 per cent of men who agreed.

Of the 30 statements that participants are asked to respond to, none divided men and women more than this one.

The second most divisive statement was centred on rights for transgender people. Vote Compass asked respondents to evaluate the statement, "Ontario's human rights laws should require that trans persons be referred to by their preferred gender pronoun."

About 64 per cent of women agreed either somewhat or strongly, while only 36 per cent of men answered the same way. 

Men and women are also split on the use of preferred gender neutral pronouns.

Developed by a team of social and statistical scientists from Vox Pop Labs, Vote Compass is a civic engagement application offered in Ontario exclusively by CBC/Radio-Canada. The findings are based on 83,673 respondents who participated in Vote Compass from May 8, 2018, to May 29, 2018. Findings related to vote intentions were collected from May 25 to May 29 to reflect the current state of the campaign (12,510 respondents).

Unlike online opinion polls, respondents to Vote Compass are not pre-selected. Similar to opinion polls, however, the data are a non-random sample from the population and have been weighted in order to approximate a representative sample. Vote Compass data have been weighted by gender, age, education and country of birth to ensure the sample's composition reflects that of the actual population of Ontario according to census data and other population estimates.