In the days after Toronto’s dramatic municipal election last fall, political scientist Zack Taylor watched as instant analysis about Rob Ford’s landslide victory hardened into received wisdom. According to many media commentators, Ford’s win was a suburban rebuke to the left-leaning, downtown-oriented leadership of David Miller. He wasn’t so sure: “I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to step backwards from that interpretation and figure out what happened?”
So Taylor, a planning consultant who is in his final year of a PhD at U of T, requested poll-by-poll election results from Elections Toronto and crunched the numbers to see where Ford’s vote was. As he suspected, the data told a somewhat different tale.
His analysis, the 2010 Toronto Election Atlas, confirmed that George Smitherman only prevailed in the pre-amalgamation City of Toronto. But he found no “smoking gun that this election was a taxpayer revolt or a war on the car.”
Both Ford and Smitherman did better in one another’s backyards than most commentators acknowledged, with the new mayor picking up almost 30 per cent of the votes cast in the former City of Toronto, including areas where the turnout was high. Smitherman garnered 54 per cent of his support outside the core.
Taylor also discovered that while Smitherman won most of the polls in the old city, he had to fight surprisingly tight battles against Ford on much of his home turf. “While there may have been an identifiable ‘Ford country,’ as it has been called in the media, there was no solid ‘Smitherman country,’” he concluded, adding that Ford won despite lower voter turnout in his suburban base. “Ford would have won by an even larger margin had the turnout been uniform across the city.”
Taylor will present a more detailed version of the atlas, including comparisons to the 2003 race, during the Canadian Political Science Association’s annual conference at the Wilfrid Laurier University, May 16-18, 2011.