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[Ottawa – October 22, 2010] – Based on a randomly dialled sample of 500 Torontonian voters, Rob Ford enjoys a significant eight point advantage over George Smitherman (43.9 to 35.6) in the closing stretch of what has been a fascinating mayoralty campaign in Toronto. While not decisive enough to declare Mr. Ford a certain winner, he is considerably more likely to emerge successfully over Mr. Smitherman on Monday.

This claim is not only based on the quite significant (but not insurmountable) lead he now enjoys, but also from analysing the underlying anatomy of voter support. While George Smitherman enjoys a lead with the university educated voters, Rob Ford has a very significant advantage with the baby boom and senior voter segment. Both of these groups are more likely to vote, but Mr. Ford’s advantage with older voters is wider than Mr. Smitherman’s advantage with the highly educated. The boomer and senior voter also is a larger voter segment. So while not conclusive, both the top line results of the poll and the underlying analysis point to Mr. Ford as the probable victor.

There is another fascinating feature to what would have been considered this highly improbable outcome at the outset of this campaign. Toronto is the most ethnically diverse city in Canada and it is mildly surprising to see that it is the more populist and conservative candidate, Mr. Ford, who is faring best with voters not born in Canada. Just as with the surprising results of the recent Calgary race, we may be forced to reconsider the role of pluralism in politics. The traditional nostrums about the electability of a visible minority member in Calgary and the natural political orientation of the non-Canadian born vote in Toronto may be need to be abandoned.

The other remarkable feature of this poll is the new divide across the university “elites” and the rest of the electorate. Not only does this divide appear to be a more important fault line than it was in the past, it is the “elites” and university educated who appear to be on the losing side more frequently. This blend of populism with an aging and insecure electorate is profoundly altering the political landscape of upper North America, from the Tea Party movement to the South, to the continued success of the federal conservative party in Canada. Mr. Ford’s success is just one more vivid indicator that there are new rules of political success necessary to understand today’s older and less deferential citizenry.

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