08/06/2014 12:46 EDT | Updated 08/06/2014 12:59 EDT

Olivia Chow Not Just The 'NDP Candidate' In Toronto Mayoral Race, Poll Suggests


Which candidate in the Toronto mayoral race is the choice of federal Conservatives, Liberals or New Democrats? New data gives us a clue.

Last week, a poll was released on the state of the race in Canada's largest city. The survey was done by Dimitri Pantazopoulos of Maple Leaf Strategies between July 28 and 30, interviewing 800 Torontonians over the telephone. Pantazopoulos might best be remembered as the B.C. Liberal pollster in the last provincial campaign who told the party they were on track for an upset victory.

While the survey suggested the race is close between John Tory and Olivia Chow, as other recent polls have indicated, numbers released on Tuesday show how the candidates do among supporters of the federal political parties. They reveal that all three major candidates draw support from across the spectrum.

But fault lines are also clearly visible. Simply put, John Tory is the candidate of the centre-right, Olivia Chow is the choice of the centre-left, and Rob Ford is the favourite of populists. In other words, exactly what you'd expect.

Tory draws the support of 41 per cent of federal Conservative voters, but also 31 per cent of federal Liberals. He does less well — in the low-teens — with both New Democrats and Greens.

Chow does best among New Democrats (understandably so, as she was an NDP MP before running), getting 48 per cent of their votes. But she is also the top choice among Liberals, at 36 per cent, and Greens, at 29 per cent. But she sits at just eight per cent among Conservatives.

This suggests Chow is not just the NDP candidate, as she is also attracting many Liberals into her tent. But she is stronger among New Democrats than Tory is among Conservatives or Liberals, and appears to have a lock on their votes. Tory straddles the Liberal-Conservative line, but is splitting the Conservative vote with Ford and trailing Chow among Liberals.

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The breakdown of Ford's support is somewhat surprising. He does get 38 per cent among Conservatives — which is perhaps not unexpected — but his second strongest cohort of support comes from New Democrats. Fully 24 per cent of them intend to vote for Ford, double the number planning to vote for Tory.

This shows how the political spectrum can resemble a circle instead of a straight line. Tory is on the Conservative-Liberal side, with Chow over among Liberal-New Democrats. Ford, meanwhile, bridges the divide between Conservatives and New Democrats, a political group Pantazopoulos says might be "drawn by [Ford's] populist approach."

At the federal scene, this gives Justin Trudeau some wiggle room. Though Ford will get the votes of supporters of Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair, neither wants a photo op with the toxic mayor. Harper will find it easier to work with Tory and Mulcair with Chow, while Trudeau can seemingly mingle with either front-runner. He has less riding on the outcome than his two rivals.

While Toronto was a PC wasteland in the most recent provincial election, at the federal level the city is a kaleidoscope of Conservative, Liberal, and NDP support. This makes attracting voters from as far across (or around) the spectrum as possible absolutely essential for victory. This is particularly the case in a race shaping up to be a close two-way contest with Ford grabbing a large share of the vote in third place. Whoever best reaches across the political divide, or attracts those Conservative/NDP populists still clinging to Ford, could prevail.

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.