A snap poll by Forum Research that went into the field mere hours after Patrick Brown resigned as Progressive Conservative leader has found support for his party virtually unchanged — even though the vast majority of respondents said they're aware of the sexual misconduct controversy.
Brown held a press conference denying the sexual misconduct allegations against him at 9:45 p.m. Wednesday and announced his resignation a little over four hours later, in the dead of night. Forum Research began its poll at noon Thursday and reached 751 Ontario voters, 82 per cent of whom said they were aware of the sexual misconduct allegations against Brown.
"We really wanted to catch them in moment," president and CEO of Forum Research Lorne Bozinoff told QP Briefing.
Brown's fall appears not have to have swung voters' intentions: 42 per cent said they'd support the Ontario PCs, 27 per cent said they'd support the Liberals and 23 per cent said they'd support the NDP, if an election were held today. Those results are within the margin of error of a poll Forum conducted two weeks ago that found 43 per cent would vote Tory, and the Liberals and NDP tied at 24.
(To see a roundup of polling from Forum and other companies, click here.)
The majority of respondents — 60 per cent — said they approved of Brown's decision to step down, while 18 per cent disapproved and 22 per cent said they did not know. Supporters of his party were slightly less likely that the supporters of other parties to approve of the decision, although 55 per cent still did.
Bozinoff said the poll reflects the political fallout of the accusations against Brown and his decision to step down, in a way that he believes is unlikely to evolve over time.
"I don't think there's going to be a reinterpretation about how people feel about Patrick Brown's resignation," he said.
However, further events — such as who the party choses as their interim leader and if that person helms the party through the June election — will impact the vote.
Forum also asked respondents how the allegations would affect their vote, and found nearly all said it would have no impact on their vote, or it made them more inclined to vote for the party they already supported.
"This is just confirming people's views of how they feel and how they tend to vote," he said.
Forum asked respondents for their choice among a long list of potential PC leadership candidates, but there was no clear favourite.
Forty-one per cent of respondents — not just among those who support the PCs — said they're not unsure of who would be their first choice to lead the Ontario PCs.
Former leadership contender and current non-partisans Patient Ombudsman Christine Elliott led the way with 12 per cent of the support, followed by former Toronto mayoral candidate Doug Ford (11 per cent), Toronto Mayor John Tory (8 per cent), PC star candidate Caroline Mulroney (7 per cent), former cabinet minister Tony Clement (6 per cent), former cabinet minister Lisa Raitt (6 per cent), former cabinet minister John Baird (5 per cent), and former PC leadership contender MPP Lisa MacLeod (4 per cent).
In response to the poll, spokesperson Don Peat told QP Briefing that Tory "has been and continues to be totally focused on his job as Mayor."
Some other polled candidates did not embrace the opportunity, with former MPP and MP Tony Clement shrugging off his inclusion.
Good one haha. I haven’t run in a provincial leadership since 2002 but don’t let that get in the way of a chuckle!
— Tony Clement (@TonyclementCPC) January 26, 2018
But Lisa MacLeod, who initially ran for the 2015 PC leadership before dropping out of the race, kept her options open.
PC MPP Lisa MacLeod says she's open to a party-wide leadership vote before the election. Says she's not "actively" seeking leadership, but may step up if called. pic.twitter.com/5F31qdsTZ6
— Chris Reynolds (@ChrisAReynolds) January 26, 2018
Of note, the poll didn't include PC MPP Vic Fedeli, who late Thursday told reporters that he's putting his name forward as interim leader and believes he has the support of his peers.
PC MPPs are set to chose an interim leader at a caucus meeting that begins at 9 a.m. Friday. The decision of when to hold a party-wide leadership vote to chose a new leader — whether that comes before, or after the June election — has not yet been made.
With files from David Hains