Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

As the crack scandal lingers, what's the state of the Ford Nation?

By: Matt Elliott Metro, Metro Published on Fri Jun 07 2013

It seems clear now that Mayor Rob Ford's crack cocaine scandal is not going away any time soon. It will fade, sure, but then some new detail or revelation will bring it back to the forefront. A lull in the story will be followed by a loud thump, and suddenly reporters will be whisked away to a rundown bungalow in Etobicoke, hoping to get comment from a dude named Fabio. The story is like a Tootsie Pop. No one knows how many licks it'll take to get to the chewy centre.

But it's also clear that Ford won't back down. I do believe there was a fleeting moment where Ford seriously addressing these allegations and potentially stepping away from his office was a real possible outcome. But that door was unceremoniously closed. And out through it went several of Ford's staffers. Since then, the mayor has been defiant — stepping up the number of his media appearances to unprecedented levels while still refusing to answer any questions related to the scandal.

He's dug in.

That's our mayoral status quo for the time being. But what does it mean for Ford politically? Will this make him less popular? More popular? And what of his base — the Ford Nation — who, we're told, are hopelessly devoted? As we head toward what will be the longest municipal election ever, how is Ford Nation feeling about all this?

Polling outfit Forum Research provides a glimpse of the situation. In a May 25 poll of 1,395 randomly-selected Torontonians, after confirming that virtually all of them had heard of the allegations against the mayor, they asked respondents whether they believed the alleged video of Ford smoking crack cocaine was authentic or fake.

Just over half said authentic, where 33 per cent cried forgery and 17 per cent didn't know. Which is consistent with some of the other polling we've seen on this issue.

But playing with the data, it's interesting to look at the breakdown of real versus fake through the lens of the mayor's 42 per cent approval rating. Doing that, we get a chart that looks like this:

There's Toronto, divided up into six groups. (And, yes, remember that this is a broad analysis, tainted by margins of error and the other public polling perils.)

On one end of the spectrum, you have the Ford Nation diehards. Making up 8 per cent of the population, these are the people who believe that, yes, there probably is an authentic video of the mayor smoking crack, but we like him anyway. So there.

Next to them, you have those who both approve of Ford and believe the alleged video — viewed by two Toronto Star reporters and a Gawker editor — is a forgery. That conclusion defies some logic as faking video is enormously challenging and if someone was able to create such forgeries so effectively, I'd have to think they'd choose a more prominent target. But still: this group is 28 per cent of the population. No small thing.

Then there's the on-the-fencers. Five per cent of those who approve of the mayor don't know if the video is real, while 11 per cent of those who disapprove take the same view.

On the other end of the spectrum, there's a whopping 43 per cent who disapprove of Ford and believe the video is real. A mere five per cent of those who disapprove believe the video is fake.

So a huge percentage of this city both doesn't approve of the mayor and is ready to believe allegations about drug use. This, to me, is further evidence that people tend to overstate Ford's popularity. Yeah, he's got a decent-sized base, but there's an even larger group of who make up a kind of counter-base: people who feel very strongly about not supporting this mayor.

As for the vaunted Ford Nation, they clearly still exist, but most of them are hanging on to the idea that the video is a forgery. That lends some more credibility to the idea that the alleged video, should it ever come to light as plausibly authentic, would be the one thing to shake Ford below the approval rating range he's been stuck at for two years. But we're still waiting on that.

This post was originally published at on 2013-06-07T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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