We recently completed some analysis for the Toronto Star about social media perceptions of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Here is a quick summary of our findings:
There’s no questioning Mayor Rob Ford’s popularity among Torontonians. He received 53% of the popular vote in last November’s municipal election, and approval polls conducted early in the summer showed that at least 57% of Torontonians think that he’s doing a good job. But if that base of support is still holding, their voices are being drowned in social media, where Ford detractors consistently share the outrage and scorn for Toronto’s top civic leader.
In the last 9 months, the Mayor was mentioned roughly 43,000 times over a variety of social media channels, with Twitter being the primary channel, home to 70% of all mentions. Fewer than 7% of the posts were positive. The largest spikes of online mentions were brought on by this summer’s biggest controversies, like Ford’s decision to skip the Pride Parade, his suggestion that citizens call 911 if they witness graffiti artists defacing property just to name a few. Negative mentions about the civic head hit record highs in July spurred by Doug Ford’s dust up with Margaret Atwood about the potential closing of public libraries and other cost-cutting measures being discussed at the time.
Looking at approval polls or election results, it’s clear that Rob Ford has the support of Toronto voters. However, these supportive voices seem to be overshadowed in social media where Ford detractors continually dominate the conversation landscape. Politics are fueled by passion, which makes social media the perfect outlet for people to express their unvarnished opinion. Time will tell if the increase in negative online sentiment is reflected in future approval polls.