Doug Ford hangs on to brother Rob's support, polls suggest

With Rob Ford out and Doug Ford in his place, the Toronto mayoral campaign has hardly skipped a beat, at least according to the polls. Poll analyst Éric Grenier looks at the latest numbers.

Recent surveys show John Tory with consistent lead, as Ford and Chow battle for 2nd place

Toronto mayoral candidate Doug Ford met with voters on Saturday, kicking off his campaign in the Etobicoke neighbourhood he represents on council. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

COMING UP LIVE: Toronto's mayoral candidates are debating today at 12:45 p.m. ET. The event will be livestreamed on

With Rob Ford out and Doug Ford in his place, the Toronto mayoral campaign has hardly skipped a beat, at least according to the polls.

Prior to Rob Ford's unexpected withdrawal from the race on Sept. 12 after being diagnosed with cancer, the incumbent mayor had the support of about 29 per cent of Torontonians, according to's weighted average of polls. Currently, his brother Doug Ford is also averaging 29 per cent support.

The numbers suggest that in the minds of many voters, Rob and Doug are virtually interchangeable.

While that might be good news for Doug Ford, who had previously polled worse than his brother on questions of trust, approval, or a hypothetical mayoral bid, it still leaves him in second place.

John Tory is currently averaging about 44 per cent support, giving him a sizeable 15-point lead over Ford. Olivia Chow, at 26 per cent, is in a close third.

But that is only in the aggregate. The polls have been in complete agreement that Tory is the current leader, with the last four surveys by four different companies giving him between 40 and 49 per cent support among decided voters.

However, there is less agreement on whether it is Ford or Chow who is in second place. Ford has recorded between 26 and 33 per cent support in recent polls, while Chow has been between 24 and 29 per cent. In most of these surveys, the gap between the two has been within the margin of error.

Beyond the horse race

Toronto mayoral candidates, from left, Olivia Chow, Doug Ford and John Tory debated Tuesday for the first time since Ford entered the race. Polls suggest Ford's decision to replace his ailing brother Rob has not cut into front-runner John Tory's lead. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)
Despite the close race for second, it is apparent that Chow has greater upside potential than Doug Ford. In the most recent Forum Research poll, Doug Ford had the approval of 45 per cent of respondents who had heard of him, compared to 56 per cent for Chow. That number for Chow was also a sharp increase from Forum's previous poll, and marks her best result since early July.

And while 57 per cent of respondents told Nanos Research that they held a positive or somewhat positive impression of Chow (38 per cent had a negative view), only 31 per cent said the same for Doug Ford.

Fully 62 per cent of Torontonians said their view of Ford was negative.

This suggests that Ford may have tapped all of the vote he is likely to get in this race, while Chow has room to grow. But it is unlikely that Chow will be able to pull many voters away from Ford's base.

Instead, she has to eat into John Tory's support, and this may prove very difficult.

Tory's approval rating has been consistently between 63 and 67 per cent in Forum polling since the beginning of July, while Nanos found that 75 per cent of Torontonians had a positive or somewhat positive impression of him. Only 18 per cent said their impression was negative.

It will be a challenge for Chow alone to chip away at the support of a more popular candidate. Instead, she may hope that Ford — who turned his sights primarily on the front-runner in a debate this week — can do some of the work for her.

Tory will find himself under attack from both sides as the Oct. 27 vote approaches. So far, his lead is holding.'s poll aggregation weights all publicly released surveys on age, sample size, and polling firm track record.

The Forum Research poll was conducted for the Toronto Star on Sept. 22, interviewing 1,164 Torontonians via interactive voice response. The approval rating questions asked "Do you approve or disapprove of..." with the candidate names. The reported margin of error was plus or minus 3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The Nanos Research poll for The Globe and Mail and CTV was conducted between Sept. 16 and 20 and interviewed 1,000 Torontonians via telephone. The margin of error associated with the survey was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The question on impressions asked "Do you have a positive, somewhat positive, somewhat negative, or negative impression of the following individuals...".

About the Author

Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.


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