The psychology of Ford Nation

The psychology of Ford Nation

Published June 12, 2018

It took only a few minutes after the polls closed to determine how Ontarians voted, but the results from Vote Compass help better understand what they voted for.

The convention in a winner-takes-all system like Ontario is for the party that forms government to equate a mandate to govern with a nod from voters to its election platform. But there is ample evidence to indicate that voters do not always elect their representatives on the basis of their campaign promises. Ergo, a newly-elected government ought to be cautious not to interpret a victory at the polls as a deliberate or wholesale endorsement of its policy proposals. Democracies are well-served by governments that are reflective about the mandate they are given by the electorate.

Vote Compass, an online initiative run in partnership between CBC News and Vox Pop Labs during election campaigns, solicits the views of individual citizens on salient public policy issues and then calculates their alignment to the positions of each of the parties running for office. The 2018 Ontario election edition of Vote Compass was launched as the campaign officially kicked off and, by election day, had been used by nearly a half-million Ontarians. It now serves as the single largest source of public opinion data ever collected in Ontario during an election campaign. And while Vote Compass participants were not selected at random, the size, composition and attributes of the sample allow the data to modelled in such a way as to make representative inferences about the population of Ontario.

Vote Compass asked Ontarians their views on 30 public policy matters relevant to the election campaign. What follows are the findings on each of those issues. Given the unprecedented number of Ontarians represented within these findings, and the much broader range of policy areas than are normally included in conventional polls, the results of Vote Compass offer a unique opportunity for government to be more responsive to the clearly-articulated views of those it represents.

The findings are broken down by the declared vote intention of respondents at the time of their participation in Vote Compass. The overall distributions of opinion per proposition are also represented. The stark differences in opinion between PC voters and their Liberal, NDP, and Green counterparts are perhaps the most consistently striking finding throughout the results.

Taxes and Deficit

Despite Mr. Ford’s election promise to reduce corporate taxes from 11.5 to 10.5 percent, only a minority of PC voters—28 percent—actually support the measure. There is virtually no support for the measure among voters for any other party. In fact, 63 percent of Ontarians feel that corporate taxes should be higher.

The same pattern holds true for taxes on wealthy Ontarians, where only 19 percent of PC voters support tax breaks for the rich. There is even less support within the general population for reducing taxes on the wealthy than there is for lower corporate taxes. Seventy percent of Ontarians want to see wealthier individuals pay more in taxes.

Only among PC voters is there majority support for deficit reductions even if it results in cuts to public services. Seventy-three percent of PC voters want to see government spending come down, even if that means cuts to public services. Within the general population opinion is split on the issue, with 41 percent of Ontarians in support of cuts and 43 percent opposed.

Despite Mr. Ford’s commitment not to lay off a single government worker as part of his plan to find efficiencies in government to pay for his party’s promises, breaking this particular promise is not likely to earn him much scorn among his voters. Seventy-four percent of PC voters think that there are too many people working for government. Forty-seven percent of Ontarians agree.

Wealth Gap

A majority of Ontarians—68 per cent—feel that there is too much disparity between rich and poor Ontarians. While Liberal, NDP, and Green voters all agree that the provincial government should do more to reduce this gap, PC supporters are divided on the issue.

On the matter of raising the minimum wage, a key plank of the Liberal agenda under Kathleen Wynne, nearly half of all Ontarians support keeping the minimum wage at the present rate of $14 per hour. Forty-two percent of PC voters would like to see the minimum wage reduced, contrasted with 44 percent and 46 percent of Liberal and NDP voters, respectively, who would like to see a higher minimum wage.

Ontarians, it would seem, are divided on the idea of a basic income. The PCs indicated during the campaign that they would continue the basic income pilot currently underway. However, 79 percent of PC voters disagree with the notion of a guaranteed minimum income. Opinion is divided within the broader population. Forty-eight percent of Ontarians disagree with the idea, while 38 percent are in favour.

Energy and Environment

At 60 percent, a majority of Ontarians are in favour of greater environmental regulation, even if it results in higher prices. However, among PC voters the reverse is true. Only 26 percent of PC voters support stronger environmental regulations, while 55 percent are opposed.

Electricity costs, an issue that has been an albatross around Ms. Wynne’s neck in the lead-up to and through the election campaign, is an issue where there is rare agreement among most Ontarians, regardless of whom they support. Ontarians of every political stripe take a majority view that electricity prices in the province are too high.

Wind farms enjoy relatively high support among Ontarians, with 53 percent of the population in favour of building more of them throughout the province. PC voters, however, are more divided on the issue, with 39 percent advocating for fewer wind farms.


A majority of Ontarians want to see more government action on affordable housing. Sixty percent of the population thinks the government should do more to control housing prices. PC voters, however, are more divided on the issue. There remains more support than opposition among PC voters for government intervention in the housing market, with 44 percent in favour of and 34 percent against further action by government.

There is also majority support among Ontarians for further government intervention in the rental market within the province. Fifty-seven percent of the population thinks that the government should do more to limit rent increases. Only PC voters lack majority support for further restricting rent increases, with 39 percent in favour.


Despite reforms to the sexual education curriculum being a key plank in the PC platform, 76 percent of Ontarians—including 52 percent of PC voters—support teaching sex ed in elementary schools.

Both the Liberal and NDP election platforms make commitments to various child care models. Just over half of Ontarians support government-funded preschool, but again we see an inverse trend among PC voters, 57 percent of whom oppose the idea that government would cover preschool costs for toddlers.

There is broad and unequivocal support among Ontarians for reductions in the financial costs associated with attending university or college. This support is widespread across partisan lines. Although PC voters express less support for reductions than do voters for any other party, 49 percent still indicate that tuition should be lower.

Not since the 2007 provincial election has the topic of funding for faith-based schools loomed large in the campaign discourse. With the exception of the Green Party of Ontario, which has consistently called for the integration of Ontario’s public and Catholic school systems, the topic has been absent from party platforms during recent campaigns. However, there is a broad support across political lines for consolidating the province’s Catholic and public school boards. Fifty-eight percent of Ontarians support such a measure, including 48 percent of PC voters.

Health care

Government support for dental care was a part of the campaign platforms of all the major parties, although each took a markedly different approach to the matter. Although sixty-two percent of the population supports the idea that government should pay for Ontarians’ dental care, among PC voters 50 percent disagree.

As with dental care, there is widespread support in Ontario for a government-funded pharmacare plan. Fifty-seven percent of Ontarians think the government should bear the cost of prescription medications. The dissenting opinion is again from PC voters, 54 percent of whom as opposed to such a policy.

The outgoing Liberal government has had a contentious relationship at times with the province’s medical practitioners, and questions have been raised both within and beyond the medical community about physician pay. However, about half of Ontarians think that doctors should continue making their current salaries, with about a quarter auguring for somewhat higher pay. On this issue there is a general consensus among voters across the political spectrum.

One of the most polarizing issues among Ontarians is whether girls under the age of 16 should be required to have the consent of their parent or guardian to have an abortion. The divide tracks partisan lines, with a majority of PC voters in support of the requirement for parental consent in contrast to a majority of Liberal, NDP and Green voters opposed.


With the legalization of marijuana on the horizon, the mode of distribution of legal cannabis is a divisive issue in particular for PC voters. Forty-five percent of PC voters disagree with restricting marijuana sales to government-run stores, while 41 percent agree. The overall balance of public opinion in Ontario tilts in favour of running marijuana sales through government sales, but at 48 percent that support falls just short of a majority.

Mr. Ford’s position on supervised injection sites may not have the support of most Ontarians, but it is well-received among his base. Although fifty-six percent of Ontarians support the government making supervised injection sites available to illicit drug users, a majority of PC voters oppose the measure. Fifty-nine percent of PC voters are against government-funded supervised injection sites.


Indigenous issues did not figure prominently in the campaign discourse, but provincial politicians were recently drawn into a debate over whether public schools in Ontario should continue to bear the names of prominent figures in Canadian history whose legacies include the mistreatment of Indigenous people. The debate stems from a campaign to rename schools dedicated to Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, based on his role in the establishment of residential schools. Ontarians are evenly split on the matter, with roughly 40 percent on each side of the debate. Sixty-four percent of PC voters, however, are opposed to the measure.

On the matter of how much control Indigenous Peoples should have over how Ontario’s natural resources are used, nearly three-quarters of Ontarians support granting Indigenous Peoples the same or greater control. However, 45 percent of PC voters advocate for Indigenous Peoples having less control over Ontario’s natural resources than they presently do.

On the question of how much Ontario should do to improve relations with Indigenous Peoples, 64 percent of Ontarians would like to see the government do more. While this includes majority support among Liberal, NDP and Green voters, only a minority of PC voters—37 percent—share this view. One third of PC voters are content with the status quo, while 27 percent think the government should do less.


On the accommodation of religious minorities, 41 percent of Ontarians think the government should offer the same level of accommodation that it does now, while 20 percent think more should be done and 35 percent think the government should do less. PC voters are the outlier here, with a majority advocating for fewer accommodations.

The notion that public corporations should be mandated by government to have a certain share of women on their boards of directors is a polarizing one in several respects. While more Ontarians support the measure than don’t, neither side of the debate enjoys majority support among the general population. A majority of Liberal, NDP and Green voters favour the measure, while a majority of PC voters oppose it. Of all the issues included in the 2018 Ontario election edition of Vote Compass, this is the most polarizing between men and women. Fifty-nine percent of women support the measure, compared with 31 percent of men. Forty-five percent of men outright oppose the idea, compared with only 18 percent of women.

At 49 percent, a near-majority of Ontarians support the idea that human rights laws in the province should require that transgendered persons be referred to using their preferred pronoun. Only 27 percent of Ontarians disagree with this proposal, but 51 percent of PC voters are opposed.

Public Transit

While support for increased spending on public transit is most pronounced in Toronto, where 83 percent of the population are in favour, 61 percent of Ontarians across the province want to see more government spending on public transit. While more PC voters support increased funding for public transit than don’t, they are the only cohort of voters that do not express majority support for more funding.


Opinion is split in Ontario over whether unions have too much influence in Ontario. Forty-four percent of Ontarians feel that unions exert too much influence, whereas 30 per cent disagree. The most ardent opposition to ostensibly undue union influence comes from PC voters, 70 percent of whom think that unions have too much power. Voters for other parties have mixed opinions. NDP voters are the most likely to disagree with the idea that unions have too much influence, but at 41 percent this is not the majority position even among NDP supporters.

Developed by a team of social and statistical scientists from Vox Pop Labs, Vote Compass is a civic engagement application offered in Ontario exclusively by CBC Radio-Canada. The findings are based on 162,146 respondents who participated in Vote Compass from May 8, 2018 to June 7, 2018. Unlike online opinion polls, respondents to Vote Compass are not pre-selected. Similar to opinion polls, however, the data are a non-random sample from the population and have been weighted in order to approximate a representative sample. Vote Compass data have been weighted by gender, age, geography, education, birthplace, and voting record to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Ontario according to census data and other population estimates.

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