A new poll suggests John Tory has taken the lead in the Toronto mayoral race, with Olivia Chow dropping into third.
The survey, conducted by Forum Research for the Toronto Star and interviewing 1,268 Torontonians by interactive voice response on August 5 and 6, found Tory to have the support of 35 per cent of respondents, a gain of seven points since Forum's last poll of July 21. Rob Ford was second with 27 per cent, unchanged, while Chow had slipped four points to 25 per cent.
David Soknacki had five per cent support, followed by Karen Stintz at four per cent, while two per cent said they would vote for another candidate, and the remaining two per cent was undecided.
While some other polls have indicated Tory's position has improved markedly during the summer, this is the first poll from Forum Research to give Tory the lead. And no poll so far in the race has recorded Chow to have so little support as to rank third behind Ford.
Chow's fall has been rather sudden, if it is real. From April to as recently as July 2, Chow was polling between 34 and 38 per cent support in Forum's estimation. But the last two polls from the company have shown a sharp decrease in her support.
Ford certainly has not benefited, as he has been measured at 26 or 27 per cent support in the last four polls by Forum. Only Tory has taken advantage, and only just recently as he was previously polling between 24 and 28 per cent support going back to April.
That makes this most recent jump a significant departure from Forum's polling narrative. While other polls have also borne it out, future surveys from Forum will determine whether this particular surge is a one-off or a new reality in the mayoral race.
There are reasons to have seen something like this coming. Chow's approval rating has been dropping for some time, and is currently at 52 per cent among those who have heard of her, or about 51 per cent among all respondents. That is the lowest it has been since the beginning (with the exception of an anomalous February poll), and well below the 64 per cent she registered in early June.
By comparison, Tory's approval ratings have been glowing. This poll puts it at 67 per cent among people who have heard of him, unchanged from July 21, or 64 per cent among the entire sample. He has registered 60 per cent approval or better in Forum's polling since April.
Ford's approval rating, at just 35 per cent, is well below his main rivals and is the lowest among the five main candidates.
Both Tory and Chow are hoping to become the principal anti-Ford candidate. The poll suggests that about half of respondents currently supporting a candidate other than Ford agree that they will vote for whoever can defeat the incumbent mayor. When election day approaches, that means a good portion of the Soknacki and Stintz vote could peel off and move towards either Chow or Tory. There is also the possibility that Chow or Tory supporters will abandon their candidate of choice to cast a ballot for the more likely winner.
This severely limits Ford's ability to win due to a split in the vote, as by every measure he struggles to find one-in-three Torontonians who either approve of him or are willing to vote for him. And with Tory moving ahead with further room for growth, Ford’s days in office look numbered.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers every week. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.
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