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Olivia Chow, Doug Ford and John Tory are in a dead heat in Toronto’s mayoral race, according to a Forum Research poll released Oct. 7.NATHAN DENETTE/The Canadian Press

With less than three weeks to go before Toronto voters head to the polls, Doug Ford, John Tory, and Olivia Chow aren't the only high-profile combatants: Opinion researchers are also slugging it out for supremacy, staking their reputations on sharply different approaches.

Less than 24 hours after a poll by Mainstreet Technologies found John Tory with a 14-point lead over Mr. Ford among likely voters, a new poll by Forum Research is declaring the two candidates in a statistical tie.

Forum, one of the country's largest market research firms, reported Tuesday that Mr. Ford has surged since its last poll, vaulting his support to 37 per cent of respondents from 33 per cent one week ago. Mr. Tory's support fell from 43 per cent to 39 per cent. Ms. Chow went from 20 per cent to 22 per cent.

"This is a shocking upset indeed," said Forum president Lorne Bozinoff, in a statement issued with the poll results. "Doug had a fairly good week last week, but his partisans clearly think he had a great week. He has neatly filched 4 points off John Tory and added them to his vote share."

Forum's poll contrasts with Mainstreet's findings released Monday, which had Mr. Tory with 42 per cent support of residents considered likely to vote, over Mr. Ford's 28 cent and Ms. Chow's 19 per cent. The poll sampled 2,379 Toronto residents, and eliminated respondents who favoured one candidate but characterized themselves as unlikely to vote. Mainstreet found a significant number of Ford and Chow supporters who indicated they were not strongly inclined to vote.

Forum's poll is a random sampling of 1,218 "decided and leaning" voters. It does not attempt to measure the likelihood of those respondents actually turning up to the polls.

Explaining his firm's methodology, Lorne Bozinoff, the president of Forum, told The Globe: "Last June, every single Ontario provincial poll that issued likely-voter predictions, predicted worse than their prediction based on all voters."

Forum has had some embarrassing misses: it predicted the recent New Brunswick election, in which the Liberals won a majority government, would go to the Conservatives. Mainstreet is a relatively new operation, which describes itself as an "emerging national public research and complete campaign services firm." Both companies predicted a majority Liberal government in the recent Ontario election.

Forum's poll was taken late Monday, in the wake of a fractious debate hosted by the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, as Mr. Tory and Mr. Ford traded accusations of racism.

While the Forum poll gave Mr. Ford reason to cheer, it also found his approval rating had fallen three points, from 45 per cent to 42 per cent since Forum's poll taken Sept. 22. Mr. Tory's approval rating had also fallen, from 64 per cent to 53 per cent. Ms. Chow's approval fell from 56 per cent to 42 per cent.

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