TORONTO (Reuters) - More than 40 percent of Toronto voters still approve of the job Mayor Rob Ford has done and one-third of them would vote for him again, even after he admitted smoking crack cocaine and city council stripped him of much of his authority.
A Forum Research survey of 1,049 Toronto voters released on Friday showed that 42 percent of respondents approve of the job Ford has been doing as mayor of Canada’s largest city.
That’s down from 44 percent in a similar poll two weeks ago, but up from 39 percent in late October, just before Ford admitted he smoked crack cocaine while in office.
Indeed, support for Ford, who has had much of his authority stripped by city council over the past week, is still comfortably in the 37-49 percent range that polls have shown over the past two years, Forum said.
In early 2011, shortly after his election as mayor, Ford’s approval rating was above 60 percent.
The result suggests that Ford could still be competitive in next year’s municipal election, as 33 percent of those polled said they would vote for him in October 2014.
“I think he is going to be viable (in the next election),” Forum President Lorne Bozinoff said in an interview.
“He probably needs about 43 percent to win, he has 33 coming out of the gate. He needs to pick up 10 percent among the swing voters.”
Ford swept to power in 2010 with a pledge to cut costs at city hall, winning 47 percent of the vote, with two left-leaning candidates splitting the rest.
The poll shows Ford’s support is greatly concentrated in the western suburb of Etobicoke, where he lives, and in Scarborough, to the east of the city center.
His support is stronger among low income earners, and among those without post-secondary education.
Ford’s admission earlier this month that he smoked crack “in one of my drunken stupors” followed police revelations that they have been investigating the mayor as part of a drug probe.
Ford has also admitted he bought illegal drugs and has driven after drinking. He has been lampooned on late-night TV for his erratic behavior, which includes an expletive-filled rant caught on camera.
While Ford’s core supporters remain loyal, the poll showed a strong majority of Torontonians believe he is not fit for office.
Sixty percent said Ford should resign, and the same number said they approve of recent city council measures to shift much of his authority to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.
Interestingly, that number exceeds the 58 percent who don’t approve of the job he’s doing, which means some who approve of his job performance also believe he should step down. Bozinoff said this suggested some voters are separating his performance on the job from the problems in his personal life.
“It’s not totally contradictory to say, ‘yes he’s done a good job until now, but it looks like he’s got some personal problems, maybe he should resign and deal with them’,” he said.
Sixty-nine percent said they believe the mayor has a substance abuse problem, which Ford denies.
Nineteen percent of those polled said they would like to see Ford as prime minister of Canada, a goal Ford mentioned in a television interview earlier this week.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Conservative who takes pride in a tough law-and-order agenda, said on Thursday that the idea of Ford as prime minister was “not something I‘m in favor of”.
Reporting by Cameron French; Editing by Peter Galloway