Front-running mayoral hopeful John Tory has a comfortable lead over his rivals Doug Ford and Olivia Chow, according to a new poll.

The Nanos Research poll conducted for CTV and the Globe and Mail suggests that if the municipal election were held today, 49 per cent of decided “very likely” voters would cast their ballot for Tory. Meanwhile Ford, who entered the mayoral race at the 11th hour after his brother, Mayor Rob Ford, dropped out to begin cancer treatment, has approximately 27 per cent support. Chow has approximately 24 per cent support.

Nanos conducted the survey between Sept. 16 and 20.

The poll shows Tory widening his lead after Doug Ford’s entry into the race.

It also found that Tory, the former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader, continues to lead by a significant margin as the best candidate to represent the city. More than half (54 %) of the respondents chose Tory. Both Chow and Ford lagged behind at 19 per cent each in this category.

Tory has the "advantage," pollster Nick Nanos told CTV Toronto. He also pulled ahead in the favourability category, with 75 per cent of respondents giving Tory a "positive or somewhat positive" rating. Meanwhile, Chow was the second most favourable with 57 per cent of votes in this category, while Ford was a distant third with 31 per cent.

According to Nanos, these numbers suggest that Ford has reached a "glass ceiling" in terms of his ability to win votes from new supporters, while Chow still has the potential for growth.

"Chow's support can grow," Nanos said. "If there are missteps in (Tory's) campaign…the main beneficiary will probably be the Chow campaign."

A Nanos poll released on Sept. 2 put Tory at 42 per cent support, with Rob Ford and Chow trailing with 28 per cent and 26 per cent, respectively.

Respondents in the new poll were also asked to indicate which candidate would be their first and second choice if the election were held tomorrow.

Ranking the candidates on first choice support among decided voters:

  • John Tory received 49.2 per cent support;
  • Doug Ford received 27.4 per cent support;
  • Olivia Chow received 23.5 per cent support.

About 8 per cent of respondents said they were “unsure.”

The poll also asked respondents about their comfort level with the mayor stepping down from the mayoral race and Coun. Ford stepping in.

According to the results:

  • 31.5 per cent said they were “comfortable”;
  • 9.1 per cent said they were “somewhat comfortable”;
  • 11.2 per cent said they were “somewhat uncomfortable”;
  • 38.9 per cent said they were “uncomfortable.”

Just over 9 per cent said they were “unsure.”

Asked for the reason why they held their opinion, responses varied widely.

Of those who said they were "uncomfortable" with Rob Ford dropping out and Doug Ford opting in, 28 per cent said they “don’t like or trust” the brothers, who have “embarrassed the city.”

  • More than 9 per cent said it was “abusive/manipulative of the system”;
  • More than 10 per cent checked “Inexperienced/not ready/don’t know well enough”;
  • 9.6 per cent said you “can’t pass jobs around the family.”

Of those who said they were “comfortable” with the moves, nearly 30 per cent said it was because they "like the Fords/have similar policies."

A further 12 per cent called Doug Ford "a strong candidate/capable," and 10.6 per cent said they are comfortable with the decision "because of their track record."

The poll was a random telephone survey of both land and cellphones of 1,000 “very likely municipal voters” in Toronto between Sept. 16 and Sept. 20. The margin of error is +/-3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With a report from CTV Toronto’s Natalie Johnson