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How far is the road to victory for the conservatives?

These parenting questions are taken from EKOS Research Associates President Frank Graves’ article, “Northern Populism: Causes and Consequences of the New Ordered Outlook.” The EKOS team used the responses to construct an index, from minus 4 to 4, to estimate how open or orderly their respondents were. When crossing this index with polls on other burning social issues, we find significant correlations on issues that, on the face of it, have little connection. In fact, this open index turns out to be a powerful indicator of political tendencies.

According to EKOS data, respondents with a more orderly authoritarian outlook are more likely to identify as being against abortion rights and opposed to gun bans. The data also shows that they were reluctant to wear a mask during the height of the pandemic and are much more reluctant about vaccines than those with a more open view. Many members of this group believe that there are too many immigrants coming to Canada and that too many of them are members of visible minorities.

Moreover, they tend to vote for conservative parties, both provincially and federally.

Which brings us to the lessons we can learn from the new Premier of Ontario. According to polls taken during the campaign, EKOS measured that, unsurprisingly, Ford and PC were doing well among Ontario voters who score highest on the authoritarian scale.

Below are Ford’s approval and disapproval ratings broken down by respondents’ score on the index:

Although just over a third of Ontarians approved of Ford’s performance as premier at the time the poll was conducted – from April 28 to May 4 – more than 50% of those who scored the highest score on the Open Orders Index said Ford was doing a good job.

“We see an even more pronounced effect when we look at provincial voting intentions,” said Joseph Angolano, senior partner at EKOS, who conducted the polls. “Although only 13% of respondents who scored lowest on this index said they would vote for Ford, 78% who scored highest intended to vote Conservative. We are measuring an increase direct from PC support as we progress through the index.

EKOS figures detect a similar trend in the CPC leadership race, particularly leading the race led by Poilievre against Jean Charest.

Support for Charest decreases among respondents more favorable to authoritarian populism, while support for Poilievre increases.

“Ford and Poilievre do well with the Conservative base and, as we have shown in the past, Conservative voters are much more likely to support authoritarian populism than supporters of other parties. But there is a distinct difference in styles between Poilievre and Ford,” Angolano noted in an email to POLITICO.

“Poilievre spent his leadership campaign talking about banning elected officials from attending the World Economic Forum, firing the Governor of the Bank of Canada and openly supporting the truck convoy – all points that come straight from the heart Canadian right-wing populism.

So how far must Poilievre go to win over the Canadiens? Ford’s majority landslide contains a few clues. With its majority victory last week, Ford may have just shaped the Federal Conservatives’ plans.

While Ford’s style and rhetoric fit the definition of populism – he openly declared at the start of his first term that he was a supporter of Donald Trump – he refrained from mentioning the WEF or delving into easily rebuttable conspiracy theories about it – unlike Poilievre.

Ford also condemned the convoy that crippled Ottawa in February as Poilievre brought them donuts. Ford called the anti-maskers a “group of yahoos,” while Poilievre aligned himself for months with those who want to abolish most, if not all, Covid public health measures.

Ford retained most of his party’s rural strongholds, and he swept through all-important Toronto suburbs in the Greater Toronto Area en route to his majority victory. Of the 30 electoral districts in the Greater Toronto Area, Ford’s PC party won 29.

In last fall’s federal election, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won 25 of those same 30 ridings (most provincial and federal ridings overlap in Ontario).

Win the suburbs, win the elections. This is true in Ontario, as it is true at the federal level.

“And as we can see,” Angolano said, “Ford can very well hold the authoritarian populist segment without going down the oratorical path that Pierre Poilievre chose to go down.”

Perhaps the CPC strategists will take note.

These EKOS polls were conducted from April 28 to May 4. The federal poll had 771 respondents (margin of error +/- 3.5%), while the Ontario poll had 726 respondents (margin of error +/- 3.6%). Data tables are available here.


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