Do we care about partisanship?

In the midst of considering the possibility of a political partnership between Stephen Harper and Rob Ford, Susan Delacourt notes the tricky nature of the public’s relationship with partisanship.

We all vividly remember those maps of the 2010 municipal election results, showing the sharp divide between Ford voters in a large, suburban ring around downtown Toronto, where support overwhelmingly leaned the other way, toward Ford’s opponent, George Smitherman. Many of those suburban, Ford-voting ridings now belong to Harper’s Conservatives.

Yet Conservative strategists who analyze voters in terms of “micro-targets” will also acknowledge that there isn’t an automatic or easy crossover between Harper’s base and what’s been called “Ford nation” in the GTA. In fact, pollsters reported last year that there were people in the Toronto suburbs who voted for Ford in the 2010 municipal election, for the NDP (and late leader Jack Layton) in the 2011 federal election and then McGuinty’s provincial Liberals in the Ontario election that fall.

How—or how much—the general public considers its choices as running from the NDP to the Liberals to Conservatives on a left-to-right continuum and how strongly voters personally align themselves to “left” or “right” would seem important, for instance, to any discussion about uniting the left.