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Ontario Liberals in 'striking distance' of PCs, poll suggests

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The Ontario election race appears to be tightening ahead of the formal start of the campaign, with one new poll putting the Liberals only four points back of Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative party.

The Abacus Data survey of 1,500 Ontarians found that 36 per cent of decided voters plan to cast a ballot for Ford’s PC party in June, compared to 32 per cent who intend to vote for Steven Del Duca’s Liberal party and 23 per cent who said they would vote for Andrea Horwath and the NDP. About six per cent of respondents indicated that they vote for the Green party while four per cent said that they would vote for another party entirely.

The Liberals are up four points from a similar survey conducted in January while the Tories are down one point and the NDP are down two points.

In a release accompanying the poll results, Abascus Data CEO David Coletto said the Liberals do appear to be “within striking distance in the hypothetical ballot,” but he cautioned that they “still have a lot of work to do if they are going to win the election,” starting with the profile of their leader.

The poll found that nearly six out of 10 Ontarians (59 per cent) expressed a degree of unfamiliarity with Del Duca. Only 39 per cent said that they were unfamiliar with Horwath and only 15 per cent said that of Ford.

Ford also had a considerable advantage when it came to personal popularity.

Approximately 41 per cent of respondents said that they had a positive impression of the PC leader, up nine points since January.

About 31 per cent of respondents said that they had a positive impression of Horwath, compared to 30 per cent who said that they had a negative impression.

Del Duca was the only leader of the three main parties with a negative score. About 22 per cent of respondents said that they had a positive impression of him but 27 per cent said that they had a negative impression. A further 27 per cent expressed a “neutral” opinion of the Liberal leader.

Meanwhile, when it came to who would make the best premier 35 per cent of respondents identified Ford as their pick. Horwath was chosen by 17 per cent of respondents and Del Duca was chosen by 12 per cent of respondents.

“Steven Del Duca remains unknown to a large portion of the electorate and those that do have an impression of him are more likely to view him negatively than positively. He is well back in third when respondents are asked who will make the best premier,” Coletto noted in the release. “What is unknown at this point is whether vote intention will align more closely with the perceived best premier or whether the Liberals can hold onto their support despite how people feel about Mr. Del Duca.”

COST OF LIVING A TOP ISSUE FOR VOTERS

Abacus has been tracking Ford’s popularity at regular intervals throughout his time in office.

The 41 per cent of respondents who said that they had a positive impression of the PC leader in its latest poll marks his highest level of support since May, 2020.

It is also a significant reversal from this time last year when only 28 per cent of respondents said that they had a positive impression of him.

Looking ahead to the election campaign, which is likely to start next month, the cost of living was top of mind for many voters with 52 per cent of respondents identifying it as a ballot box issue. Other top issues included housing affordability (36 per cent), improving the healthcare system (33 per cent) and taxes (30 per cent).

Interestingly fewer than one out of four voters (22 per cent) identified the COVID-19 pandemic as a key issue.

“The cost of living is top of mind for more voters as housing, healthcare, and taxes round out the list of top issues. The PCs and Doug Ford have a natural advantage on that matter but are not immune to criticism about how their government has handled the issue,” Coletto said. “While about half of Ontarians definitely want a change in government, the desire for change isn’t at a level where a PC re-election is in peril. The federal Liberals faced a similar environment in the lead-up to that vote.”

The survey was conducted between April 14 and 19.

It is considered accurate to within 2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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