2010 Toronto election

In search of a winning progressive coalition

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A while back I was asked to give a presentation on what I thought the fundamental divide was in Toronto city politics, and how a “progressive” candidate might win an election. I’ve attached the presentation as a PDF here. The main takeaway messages are:

  • There is a real city-suburb divide that has persisted across multiple elections. To win, a “downtown” candidate must carry his or her base but also appeal to suburban voters. Two-thirds of the votes are in the suburbs; even if the downtown voted as a bloc, it cannot win a citywide election on its own. More than half of Smitherman’s votes came from outside of the old City of Toronto, but they were not enough to win.
  • Examining the aggregate demographics of the parts of the city in which Smitherman and Ford won a majority of the vote reveals that there are two worlds within the City of Toronto. On average, Smitherman Village is wealthier and more educated than Ford Nation, contains more tenants and fewer homeowners, and contains more professionals. Home values are higher and fewer people commute by car. Ford Nation also contains more first-generation immigrants and visible minorities.
  • A more detailed statistical analysis suggests that, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, the propensity to commute by automobile is the greatest predictor of Ford support, while higher levels of educational attainment and visible minorities as a proportion of the population are the strongest correlates of Smitherman support. Interestingly, income and home values were not statistically significant correlates of support for either candidate.
  • This suggests that the 2010 election cannot be read simply as the revenge of the squeezed lower-middle class or an upper-middle class property tax revolt. The common narrative that Ford was buoyed by the rise of a new conservative ethnic voter in suburbs also doesn’t play out. Neighbourhoods with many foreign-born residents leaned toward Ford, while those with many visible minorities (i.e., more recently arrived immigrants) tended to lean toward Smitherman. In other research I have found the same split among support for Conservative and NDP candidates at the federal level.
  • Instead, it seems that there is a lifestyle divide between core and suburban voters than leads them on average to behave differently regardless of whether they are rich or poor, homeowners or tenants.
  • Finally, a comparison between the 2003 and 2010 elections shows that John Tory and Rob Ford had a very different distribution of support, as did David Miller and George Smitherman. This suggests that while there is a core-suburb divide, it is not insurmountable and communities can be activated in different ways depending on the special dynamics of the election campaign. Also, no candidate should forget that in the 2011 provincial and federal elections, the Liberals were the first-place party in the City of Toronto, with the NDP and the Conservatives vying for second place.

Voter turnout in the City of Toronto – Part 2

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Why does turnout vary across space?

I argue that at least some of this variation is due to demographic and socio-economic differences.

The maps on the left show wards with below-average turnout. (The above-average ones are not shown.) On the right I have mapped census tracts in which there is:

  • a majority population of first-generation immigrant residents;
  • a majority population of visible minority residents, which typically corresponds with more recent immigration; and
  • below-average median household income. (These are census tracts in which the average income of all households in the tract is less than the citywide average.)

Turnout and demographics

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Voter turnout in the City of Toronto – Part 1

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Last week I was invited to speak on a panel with Dave Meslin on civic engagement in Toronto. I thought it might be interesting to revisit the geography of turnout — how some parts of the city seem more included to vote than others, election after election. I had earlier looked at this in the context of the 2010 election. Using City of Toronto Elections data, I made ward-level maps of turnout for the 2003, 2006, and 2010 elections.

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Advance voting in the 2010 Toronto election

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Did advance voting benefit any particular candidate?

Much was made in the media about the high volume of voting at advance polls — approximately double compared to previous elections. About 9.4% of all votes were cast in advance.[1] Some have speculated that this was the product of efforts by the major candidates (especially Ford) to lock in support prior to election day. Did advance polls favour any one candidate?

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Turnout in the 2010 Toronto election

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Turnout in 2010 was by any measure considerably higher than in recent elections in the City of Toronto — at 49.7%, about 29% higher than each of the previous three elections. Turnout was 39% in 2006, when incumbent David Miller trounced councillor Jane Pitfield. In 2003, the most recent election without an incumbent mayoral candidate, it was 38%. Turnout was about the same as in 1997, the hotly contested first election in the amalgamated City of Toronto. More votes were cast than ever before — over 810,000, 60,000 more than the previous peak in 1997, and 200,000 more than in 2000 and 2006.

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The 2010 Toronto election – the ‘anyone-but-Ford’ factor

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An “anybody-but-Ford” narrative emerged in the final month of the campaign, brought into focus by Sarah Thompson’s withdrawal and endorsement of Smitherman on September 28, and the folding of Rocco Rossi’s campaign on October 13. Joe Pantalone, of course, chose to stay in the race despite low polling numbers. To what extent did Pantalone split the anti-Ford vote?

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Margins of mayoral support in the 2010 Toronto election

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Ward by ward, Smitherman’s margin over Ford was greatest in the core of the old City of Toronto, while Ford’s margin over Smitherman was greatest in his Etobicoke base, western North York, and western Scarborough. Margins were smaller in East York and central North York. The strength of Ford’s support was stronger than Smitherman’s — in his best showing, he beat Smitherman by 67 points in his home base, Ward 2. In his best wards, 27 and 28, which corresponded to his provincial riding, Smitherman bested Ford by only 36 points.

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Mayoral support in the 2010 Toronto election

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Figures 5, 6, and 7 show the magnitude of support for the three major candidates. In each case, the candidate’s support is strongest in the constituency he previously represented. Ford secured an absolute majority of votes in most of the suburban zone and also had significant support in parts of the former City of Toronto. Again, we see that Smitherman’s support was more dispersed. His percentage of the vote was less than 25% in much of Etobicoke, York, and western North York.

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Election-day results in the 2010 Toronto election – Part 2

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Examining the election-day vote in each of the 1,110 voting subdivisions (VSDs) provides a more fine-grained perspective. While each ward contains an average of 59,000 people, about 2,300 people live in each VSD. Each VSD contains at least one polling station where area residents cast their votes. While one might expect data at this level of detail to reveal pockets of Smitherman support in “Ford Country” and vice versa, there are few deviations from the ward-level picture.

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Election-day results in the 2010 Toronto election – Part 1

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After leading in the polls since June, Ward 2 Councillor Rob Ford won handily on October 25, winning almost half of the vote citywide. In second place, about 11 points behind, was George Smitherman, former member of provincial parliament, senior cabinet minister, and, in the 1990s, chief of staff to ex-Toronto mayor Barbara Hall. Third-place finisher Joe Pantalone, long-time councillor and, in the last term of council, deputy mayor, won just under 12% of the vote. Other candidates, including several who had withdrawn but were still on the ballot, accounted for 5.5%.

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