Rob Ford’s approval rating at 70%: poll
Megan O'Toole May 5, 2011 – 12:31 PM ET | Last Updated: May 5, 2011 6:13 PM ET
Dozens of media cameras jockeyed for position as Mayor Rob Ford, smiling and squinting into the sunlight, stepped off a bus in the city’s east end Thursday.
“Lovely day today,” he observed, launching into an impromptu meet-and-greet with a group of special-needs residents gathered outside Variety Village on Danforth Avenue. What does a mayor do, one young woman asked?
“Meeting and meetings. Return a lot of phone calls,” Mr. Ford riffed, before launching into his official business: unveiling a new bus stop outside the fitness and life skills facility.
This sort of announcement, on its own, would not typically draw such a media horde, but this was Mr. Ford’s first availability since the federal election, and reporters eagerly sought his opinion on everything from the so-called Ford Effect to a recent poll pinning his approval rating at 70%.
Days before the election, Mr. Ford publicly endorsed Prime Minister Stephen Harper, hailing the Conservative leader as the only alternative to a “tax and spend” regime. He repeated his praise Thursday, but denied “Ford Nation” had any impact on the election results, which saw Greater Toronto embrace Conservatives.
“I can’t take credit for that,” Mr. Ford said. “The people voted the way they thought. I’d just give Mr. Harper credit for keeping taxes down, and he fulfilled his promises… I’m sure the next four years are going to be very beneficial to the people and the taxpayers of this city.”
Mr. Ford said he looks forward to a “great working relationship” with Ottawa, particularly since Toronto is now represented by a slew of Conservative MPs.
The Mayor was also riding high on the results of a new poll indicating six months after he swept to victory, 70% of respondents in Greater Toronto approve of his overall performance.
The Ipsos Public Affairs survey of 913 residents, conducted last month for the Toronto Real Estate Board, found three-quarters support Mr. Ford’s pledge to repeal the land transfer tax, and 65% believe council is managing tax dollars appropriately.
Two key factors were at play in the results, pollster John Wright said.
“Most people believe that there have been lots of wrong-headed decisions at City Hall, and the second thing is that it’s overstaffed,” he said. “When you line those two things up and you go to Rob Ford’s campaign, which was about gravy train and value for taxpayers’ money, the fact that he’s taken action on a number of things, including the TTC, has registered in this poll.”
Opposition to eliminating the land transfer tax was significantly higher in the downtown core, where voters overwhelmingly rejected Mr. Ford at the polls. A similar split was evident in a question on perceived causes for the shortfall between city revenues and expenditures; downtown voters were more likely than their suburban counterparts to fault inadequate taxation, while both groups pointed to waste, inefficiencies and a bloated civil service.
“The issue here is not so much any political person who is the opponent,” Mr. Wright said. “The opponent is City Hall itself.”
Asked what areas should receive the most attention in an ongoing city review of services, more than three-quarters of respondents selected downsizing of city staff through attrition, more public-private partnerships, contracting out selected services and eliminating city agencies.
The poll, conducted online between April 18 and 26, is considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Mr. Ford said he was “humbled” by the results, but would not predict whether his approval numbers may drop, as some critics suggested, once he begins finding “efficiencies” to fill a glaring $700-million budget hole next year.
“All I know is I’m going to events, I’m returning people’s phone calls, I’m watching every single dime that’s being spent out of City Hall,” Mr. Ford said. “I’m doing what I said I’m going to do.”