Ronan O'Beirne

Rob Ford’s poll numbers and the convenient narrative

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Nearly as shocking as Toronto police chief Bill Blair’s press conference last week were the results of a poll which suggested that Mayor Rob Ford’s approval ratings had gone…up?

Yes—from 39 percent to 44 percent, according to a poll conducted by Forum Research a few hours after Blair’s press conference.

This counterintuitive bump has been reported by, among countless others, the Toronto Star, the Toronto Sun, CP24, New York Magazine, TheHuffington Post, City News, CBC, Yahooand The Atlantic.

Some of these stories have rightly included the other, equally newsworthy results of that poll: 68 percent believed the video was real (up from 51 percent in May); nearly half of his supporters thought he hadn’t adequately addressed questions about the video and—surprisingly, given his approval rating—60 percent of respondents thought the mayor should resign. In a separate poll, Ford’s odds of re-election in 2014 (against confirmed candidates Karen Stinz and David Soknacki) went down.

These contradictions, though, are not the headline; the mysterious bump is.

Until the next poll is released—which ought to be soon, as Forum was in the field again yesterday—the narrative will remain that Ford saw a bounce after Blair’s press conference. It is a convenient, incomplete, flawed narrative. (Even Forum’s president couldn’t say for sure what caused the uptick.)

Flawed narratives are often the best ones—the ones that endure. Orson Welles’s The War of the Worlds caused mass panic when it was broadcast in 1938 (it didn’t). Hackers working for The News of the World erased voicemails from a missing girl’s phone (they didn’t). Hearst and Pulitzer pretty much started a war (they didn’t). Rob Ford’s poll numbers went up after the police confirmed the existence of the video.

Did they?

Remember to follow the Review and its masthead on Twitter. Credit where it’s due: the Review took inspiration for this post from the Twitter feed of John Michael McGrath, who ran this blog a few years ago. Follow him, too. 



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