Wednesday, June 24, 2015

First Houston mayoral poll shows Turner, Garcia tied at lead

Some other surprises here as well.

Sylvester Turner and Adrian Garcia have emerged as the clear front-runners in the first independent poll before the election that will determine Houston's next mayor.

The KHOU – Houston Public Media Poll indicates a clear divide between two tiers of candidates, with Turner and Garcia well ahead of all other contenders to take charge at Houston City Hall after the term-limited Mayor Annise Parker leaves office at the end of this year.

Turner, the longtime state representative making his third run for mayor, leads the pack with 16 percent of surveyed likely voters. Garcia, the former Harris County sheriff, comes in second at 12 percent.

The rest of the candidates in the poll drop into single digits. Chris Bell, the former congressman making his second run for mayor, won the support of 8 percent of surveyed voters.  Both Ben Hall, the former city attorney making his second mayoral run, and former Kemah mayor Bill King, stand at 3 percent. City Councilman Stephen Costello stands at 2 percent.

"There's two tiers of candidates," said Bob Stein, the KHOU political analyst and Rice University political scientist who designed the poll. "If you had to pick a runoff match-up, it would have to be Turner and Garcia. And I don't think that comes as any surprise."

Turner, Garcia and Bell share a distinct advantage over the other candidates because their names have repeatedly appeared on Houston ballots for more than a decade.

Stein's a bit more officious even than his usual in terms of confidence in polling that reveals 50% of likely voters are undecided.  In the breakdown -- compared with my sense of the race -- Garcia's support is much stronger than I would have guessed in a sample of 47% Democrats... and 51% of those Caucasian.  (Click on the tabs to see these figures).  And his strength isn't due to an oversampling of Latinos; the poll breaks over half white, 27% black, and 8% Latino among likely voters, which historically is probably an accurate reflection of the electorate in real life.  (Hopefully Charles will provide some context in the next day or two regarding this.  Update: And he does.)  What I draw from those numbers, at the very least, is that Garcia's got a lot more Caucasian backers than I thought.

And while the reason that the Republican candidates are polling so low does have to do with name recognition, it's also because there are just 19% of likely voters identifying as GOP in this survey.  That's way, way off.  Stein's demographics have 26% of likely voters calling themselves independent.  Even if some of those are just embarrassed Republicans, there's still something wrong here with the nearly invisible support for King, Costello, and Hall.  Their combined total among likelies is just 8%.

I don't think so.  Put those two results together and you have to conclude that a bunch of white Republicans in this survey are favoring Sylvester Turner or Adrian Garcia for mayor.  Do you really think that's the case?

What may come as a surprise in this poll is the number of voters who've already chosen their candidate.

A little more than four months before Election Day, half of all likely voters told pollsters they had already made up their minds.

"The people who stay and vote tend to be disproportionately older, Anglo, Democratic, educated homeowners," Stein said. "These are experienced people who are doing just what they've done before: Voting for Adrian Garcia and Sylvester Turner."

This fairly absolute certainty among those polled might be the biggest surprise.

"It's worth noting that among voters who told us who they were supporting -- had picked a candidate -- over half told us they could not vote for any other candidate," Stein said.

The poll conducted between May 20 and June 21 surveyed 500 voters who had cast ballots in at least two of the last three Houston city elections. The margin of error is 4.5-percent. "These are voters who clearly have picked their candidates," Stein said. "And there's a high probability that well over half of them aren't moving. And they're not moving even in the runoff election."

I'm having a little trouble with that premise as well: half of the likely electorate (that has made a choice at all, mind you) has one guy in mind, and their mind isn't going to change?  Especially this far away from Election Day?  Dubious.

Questions about the polling data and/or methodology aside, my main takeaway is that Adrian Garcia may not need 'historic turnout' from his community after all.

The poll also contains some bad news for Astrodome supporters; 61% don't want any taxpayer money involved in whatever may come of its repurposing.  And 50% still say that transportation matters -- a combination of congestion, bad roads, and public transit -- are the city's greatest challenges, far ahead of crime (10%), flooding (8%), and a mish-mash of 17 other concerns totaling 32%, or an average of about 2% each.

So our first data point for November's election provides us with some great  kaffe-klatching, maybe some revealing developments, but a few cautions.   Who's next and when?

1 comment:

Katy Anders said...

It could be more or elss true, I guess. The people who have opinions on the candidates this early might be more hardcore politicos than the general population, and therefore less likely than others to change their minds about what candidate they like.