Premier Doug Ford’s popularity has plummeted during the second wave of the coronavirus, says a new Abacus poll. However he is still getting higher approval numbers than he did before the pandemic. In late 2019 and early 2020, more than 60 per cent of Ontarians had a negative view of the premier. But poll results released on Tuesday reveal just about “four in ten Ontarians have a positive impression of the premier” while 35% have a negative one. 

Not surprisingly, the rise and fall in the approval rating of the premier and his government is tied to their performance around the pandemic. 

The premier’s net popularity has dropped from its high of +30 in the early days of the pandemic, to a peak of +35 in August, to just +4 today, the survey revealed. The provincial government’s approval rating too is down 8-points since the last Abacus survey in October. Only 37% now believe the Ontario government is in control of the situation today, a drop of 25-points over the past months. However, more still approve of the government’s job performance than disapprove. 

Also noteworthy is that none of his political adversaries are benefitting from this declining popularity. Ford continues to be the most popular party leader in the province, Abacus says. Four in ten Ontarians continue to not know enough about Steven Del Duca to have an opinion while Andrea Horwath’s image remains mixed, with many still having a neutral view of the long-time NDP leader

An important point–were the election called today, 34% of Ontarians would vote for Doug Ford and the PC Party, 29% would vote Liberal and 25% would vote for the NDP. These figures are all within the error margin of results measured late last fall.

When asked about Doug Ford’s overall response to COVID-19 in general, 27% of Ontarians today believe he has done a bad job and made crucial mistakes, an increase of 10-points since October. Most still believe he has made mistakes but has done as well as can be expected.

When pressed on his performance on the rollout of vaccines specifically, Ontarians give Premier Ford a better assessment than they do of the government’s response in general.

Voters are definitively united on one thing: the clear majority are of the view that politicians and health leaders leaving the country for holidays is completely unacceptable (75%). The case of former finance minister Rod Phillips served as a lightning rod for public disappointment. Nine in 10 have heard about the former minister’s vacation to the Caribbean over the holidays. Of those aware, only 37% believe the premier handled the situation well while 49% believe he handled it poorly, with 14% suggesting it was largely out of his hands.

When the sequence of events and Ford’s announcement of his resignation is laid out to them, Ontarians are split in their reaction. Half believe Philips’ resignation was sufficient, four in ten believe it was not nearly enough.

But Ontarians are angry about the apparent set of rules they must follow and those followed by some making the rules themselves. This is also where Premier Ford continues to have some resilience – on his motivations. Most continue to believe that despite making some mistakes, he is still doing his best during this challenging period. Despite criticism and frustration over his role in his government’s management of long-term care and school closures, most continue to believe the premier is doing the best he can under difficult circumstances.

Abacus Data concludes that should the worst of the pandemic be behind us in this quarter,  Ford just might salvage some of the goodwill he has built over the past ten months. Should things take a turn for the worse – the trajectory is clear. Ontarians are increasingly losing patience over the situation and may come around to assessing the premier as poorly as they were at the heights of his unpopularity pre-pandemic.

The survey was conducted with 793 Ontario residents January 8 to 12, 2021. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 3.48%, 19 times out of 20. This poll was conducted and paid for by Abacus Data.





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