Half of America has heard of Rob Ford, and survey suggests that’s not a good thing

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford attends an executive committee meeting at Toronto City Hall on Thursday December 5, 2013. Ford sparked yet another controversy and the threat of legal action when he appeared to accuse a newspaper reporter of having pedophilic tendencies in a televised interview.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

If you want to make an impression on the hearts and minds of Americans, it turns out smoking crack, lying about it, consorting with known and suspected criminals and occasionally acting like the mayor of Canada's largest city is a pretty good way to do it.

An exclusive poll conducted by Pollara has found that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is the second-most recognized international political figure in the United States.

He ranks only behind Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Half of the 1,001 respondents to Pollara's online survey saying they are familiar with Ford. This made him more than twice as known as Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“This is one of the few times in memory that Americans have taken widespread interest in a Canadian political story,” Pollara vice-president Dan Arnold said in a statement. “Be it CNN or The Daily Show, it’s been impossible for Americans to escape Rob Ford coverage.”

Here are the most widely recognized international political figures, inside the U.S.:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin 64%

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford 50%

  • United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron 38%

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping 21%

  • Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi 25%

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper 18%

  • Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott 16%

More on the Rob Ford scandal:

Mayor Rob Ford calls latest allegations an ‘outright lie’ on Washington sports radio

Is it any surprise Rob Ford hasn't been charged?

Rob Ford to appear weekly on Washington sports radio show

Marion Barry threatens to phone police when asked about Toronto mayoral scandal

Full coverage: Rob Ford

It is not surprising how many Americans are familiar with Ford at this point. He has become a centerpiece of political coverage and satire since he was first embroiled in a drug and confidence scandal dating back to May.

His bizarre and unstable behaviour most recently has elevated him into a category inhabited exclusively by disgraced politicians, Kardashians and Duck Dynasty characters.

Here is a summary of some key U.S. coverage of the Ford scandal:

In May, Gawker breaks the news that there is a video of Ford smoking crack cocaine, launching months of controversy.

Late-night talk show host and American comedians dig into the story, with segments such as this Jon Stewart piece, describing Canada as a nation of crack smoking deadbeats.

After confessing to smoking about crack cocaine and lying about the existence of a video, Ford and his brother embark on a U.S. media tour, which includes appearances on Fox News and CNN, during which he insulted the CNN reporter and cursed in a room filled with children.

Ford's apology for smoking crack cocaine and lying about it ranked second on Time magazine's list of apologies.

Ford appears on a Washington sports radio show makes sexist comments, undermines the concern of concussions in football and opposes publicly-funded healthcare.

The Pollara survey suggests that Ford's exploits have had a negative impact on how Americans view Toronto and Canada. Of those asked, 29 per cent say Ford has worsened their impression of the city. Canada's reputation has taken a hit in the eyes of 18 per cent of respondents.

Meantime, 10 per cent said they actually have a better perception of Toronto, and nine per cent say Ford news has improved Canada's image. Which suggests that about 10 per cent of Americans do not take online surveys seriously.

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