An ONPulse poll does a good job of identifying who Ford Nation is: it's largely the usual suspects.
We find 5% of Ontarians would explicitly label themselves as members of Ford Nation.
An additional 25% are non-identifying fans of Ford Nation, while 51% rejected the label. In total, then, 30% of Ontario either labels itself as part of Ford Nation or is sympathetic to it.
- Ford Nation skews male and older, with few women under 30 identifying with the label.
- Past PC voters and voters who self identify being on the right of the political spectrum are more likely to be part of “Ford Nation” than others.
- A greater proportion of Toronto and GTA residents fall into “Ford Nation” than those from other regions, but this group spans the province. Within Toronto, Etobicoke, Scarborough, and York hold the highest proportion of those identifying with Ford Nation, while those closer to the downtown core are least likely to identify support for Ford Nation.
What concerns Ford Nation?
Much as we found no one issue unites voters of different political stripes, no issue in particular seems to exceptionally jump out for Ford Nation. Their top issues are consistent with those of most voters: health care, housing, jobs and the economy. On issues where they differ from Ontarians, they tend to be more similar to PC voters: they prioritize taxes, the provincial debt, and honesty and accountability in government.
If not demographics, geography or cause, what makes this group distinct?
A unifying feature of Ford Nation is their exceptionally positive view of Doug Ford. Even compared to PC voters, “Ford Nation” are defined by very strong enthusiasm for the current PC leader, with double the enthusiasm of all those saying they would vote PC.
Another is they are highly engaged: Ford Nation voters are twice as likely to be following news about the Ontario election very closely (39%) as those who reject the label (20%).
Another thread of commonality can be found in their unique outlook on power dynamics in society. Ford Nation sees public sector unions, the mainstream media, and environmentalists holding far too much influence. This is in stark contrast to other Ontarians, who are ironically most concerned about the amount of influence Ford Nation has in society.
- Curiously, Ford Nation does not disproportionately feel Toronto downtown professionals and the business community have too much power. They are about as likely as other Ontarians to believe they have more influence than they should. Antipathy towards downtown elites is often and primarily used by Doug as a rhetorical device, but its is a message resonates far beyond Doug Ford’s base.
- They are even far more likely to have a positive impression of Trump than other Ontarians – 26% view him positively.
But the key ingredients aren’t there.
The phenomenon of Donald Trump was said to emerge from economic anxiety, cultural alienation, and a sense of personal decline. Our data suggests that while greater pessimism for the future of the economy exists among “Ford Nation” voters, these Ontarians have comfortable financial situations, incomes that align with provincial norms, are as just as likely to be saving comfortably as to be indebted. ...
Though they do not suffer from the pronounced economic anxiety of the Trump voter, they are nonetheless a group with some similarities – a disinclination for elites, mainstream media, and the "scourge" of political correctness. ...
Their similarities to other Ontario voters, and their general normalcy from a demographic and even psychographic perspective, speaks to the potency of Doug Ford’s message and the possible reach of his appeal as he continues to build support among Ontarians, preaching against downtown Toronto elites and standing up for every day people. Yesterday's promise to eliminate provincial income tax for minimum wage earners is evidence of this.