Ford's popularity plummets due to handling of Ontario's second COVID-19 wave

Jan 19 2021, 9:13 am

Premier Doug Ford’s popularity has taken a hit amid Ontario’s second COVID-19 wave.

According to a recent survey by Abacus Data, the premier’s net popularity dropped from its high of +30 in the early days of the pandemic, to a peak of +35 in August, to +4 today.

Around four in 10 Ontarians have a positive impression of the premier, while 35% have a negative one. However, this is still better than his 50% to 60% disapproval rating in 2019.

“The trendline suggests things are not moving in the Premier’s favour,” the report said.

It’s important to note that right now, Ford’s popularity is tied to his handling of the pandemic.

Only 37% believe the Ontario government is in control of the situation, a drop of 25-points over the past months.

“The belief that the province has a clear plan is providing consistent advice and guidance and is generally making the right decisions have all dropped significantly in the last few months. Most Ontarians still believe the Ontario government is making public health the priority, but even this is only believed by a slim majority (61%),” the report said.

Abacus Data

The survey also asked about the government’s COVID-19 performance in specific policy areas.

For most of the policies, those surveyed felt the government was doing a “poor job,” especially when it comes to long-term care, reducing the number of people getting COVID-19, dealing with the backlog for surgeries and treatments, and preparing for a second wave.

And 27% think Ford’s overall response to COVID-19 has been “bad”— an increase of 10 points since October. Most still believe, however, that while he has made mistakes, he has done as well as can be expected.

A case that caused a “lightning rod” of disappointment for the public was former finance minister Rod Phillips going on vacation to St. Barts when the public had been told to stay at home.

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.

Despite Ford’s handling of the pandemic, he is still the most popular party leader in the province.

According to the survey, four in 10 Ontarians continue to not know enough about Liberal party leader, 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.”

Since the last survey by Abacus Data in October 2020, his approval rating is down eight points. However, more still approve of the government’s job performance than disapprove.

If an election was 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.

Abacus Data

“There’s no doubt that a lot of the fundamentals are in decline for the Ford Government. His personal reputation, assessments of his government’s leadership, and assessments of his handling of COVID-19 have all been in a steady decline over the past few months. However, vote dynamics are largely unchanged,” the report said.

If the pandemic takes a turn for the worse, then “the trajectory is clear,” with Ontarians losing patience over the situation.

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