Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative party appear to have an early lead over the NDP and Liberals with the spring provincial election still months away, a new poll has found.

The Abacus Data poll of 1,210 adult voters across Ontario found that 37 per cent would vote to re-elect the PC government if an election were held today, compared to 28 per cent who would vote for the Liberals and 25 per cent who would vote for the NDP. Five per cent of respondents said that they would vote for the Green party while another five per cent said that they would vote for another party.

The poll comes on the heels of the release of an Angus Reid Institute survey, which suggested that only 29 per cent of Ontarians approve of the job Ford is doing as premier, his lowest approval rating to date.

The Abacus poll, however, paints a more optimistic picture for the Tories when it comes to their electoral chances in June.

“The PCs start 2022 with the advantage but not one that is not insurmountable. There is widespread dissatisfaction with the Ford government and Premier Ford himself, although not to the extent it was prior to the pandemic,” CEO David Coletto said in a posting accompanying the poll results. “If an election was held today, the PCs would likely win thanks to a divided opposition and strength in all parts of the province.”

The Abacus poll found that about one-third of respondents (32 per cent) have a positive impression of Doug Ford while 46 per cent have a negative impression and 20 per cent have a neutral impression.

The percentage of respondents who have a positive impression of Andrea Horwath was the same (32 per cent) but only 30 per cent had a negative impression of the NDP leader.

Meanwhile, only 20 per cent of respondents said that they had a positive impression of Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca. That said the percentage of respondents who had a negative impression of Del Duca was the lowest among the three major party leaders (26 per cent).

The bad news for the Ford government is that when it comes to the top issue for voters – the COVID-19 pandemic – 50 per cent of respondents rated the Tories performance as poor or very poor.

The Tories also scored poorly on housing affordability (65 per cent poor or very poor) and the rising cost of living (67 per cent poor or very poor).

“Housing affordability and inflation are two areas where the provincial government performs worst and they become liabilities for the PCs if they don’t have compelling solutions in the lead up to the election,” Coletto warned.

The Abacus Data survey was conducted over the phone between Jan. 7 and Jan. 12. It is considered accurate to within 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

out of 20.