May 27, 2013 / 5:46 PM / 4 years ago

Toronto mayor's support holds despite crack scandal -poll

TORONTO, May 27 (Reuters) - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's popularity has not been hit by allegations that he was caught smoking crack-cocaine on video, claims he firmly denied, but he is at risk of being ousted in a 2014 election, according to a poll released over the weekend.

The poll, taken on Friday after Ford denied the drug-use claims, found the mayor would still lose a one-on-one battle for his job if pitted against Olivia Chow, a former city councillor and current parliamentarian widely touted as a candidate.

Ford would get 36 percent of the vote, in line with a poll conducted on May 10, before the drug use allegations surfaced, according to the Forum Research Inc poll.

Chow, widow of late New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, would get 56 percent of the vote, down slightly from 57 percent on May 10.

Reporters from the Toronto Star and Gawker Media said in separate reports on May 16 that they had seen a video that purports to show Ford smoking crack. The mayor firmly denied the allegations on Friday, after initially dismissing them as "ridiculous."

The controversy has made headlines across Canada and around the world, and drawn ridicule from late-night TV humorists Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno and Jon Stewart.

Speaking on his weekly radio show on Sunday, Ford brushed off the scandal, calling the media a "bunch of maggots," and promised to run in the next election.

"I'll be the first putting my name on that ballot," he said.

Chow, a member of parliament with the left-leaning New Democrats, is rumored to be planning to leave federal politics to run for mayor of Toronto in the 2014 election. Many pundits consider her the candidate with the strongest chance to beat the right-leaning Ford.

The mayor's popularity has been attributed to the support of the so-called "Ford Nation," the suburban voters who pushed Ford into the city's top office in 2010 and back his agenda of cutting taxes and reducing city spending.

"Rob Ford is really both the Teflon and Kevlar Mayor - nothing sticks to him and nothing penetrates his armor," Forum Research founder Lorne Bozinoff said in a statement.

"His recent troubles have had absolutely no effect on his electoral prospects."

The poll, which sampled about 1,400 Toronto residents, is based on the results of an interactive voice response telephone survey, and is considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Forum Research warned the poll does not predict future outcomes, but rather captures opinion at one point in time. (Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson; Mary Milliken and Sandra Maler)

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