Monday, October 12, 2015

Latest mayoral poll of very little value

I won't even celebrate its reveal of a huge Adrian Garcia slump.

Sylvester Turner remains the front-runner, but Adrian Garcia has lost his once firm grip on second place and Bill King rises into the top tier of contenders in the race for Houston mayor.

That's the headline from the latest poll conducted for KHOU 11 News and Houston Public Media, TV-8 and News 88.7, a survey indicating Garcia and King are now fighting it out for a chance to face Turner in a runoff.

Turner heads the pack of mayoral candidates at 19%, maintaining the lead he commanded in the same poll last May. No other candidate in this poll stands in double-digits.

Garcia and King tie for second-place, both supported by 9% of surveyed voters. Chris Bell comes in fourth at 6%, followed by Steve Costello at 5% and Ben Hall at 4%.

Still, a large number of voters haven't made up their minds. The survey of 567 likely voters conducted between September 25 and October 6 showed 42% undecided.

This is too many uncommitteds to glean any value from.  Last week's polling from Washington-based American Strategies had 25% who couldn't make up their minds, half as many KHOU/HPM's first poll in June, which had 53% undecided.  So you're telling me after all of this phone-calling and door knocking and mailers and TV commercials over the summer and early fall that only 11% more of the electorate has managed to pick a candidate?

No.  Sorry, that's worthless data to me.  I think they're doing a little better on their polling of HERO, which is 43% yes, 37 no, and 18 unsure, but even that many Houstonians who don't know how they'll vote on the ordinance has too much doubt in it.

They got it right on Sylvester Turner being one of two going to December -- that's been the trendline for a couple of weeks now -- but that just seems like a lucky shot compared to everything else.

"I would say Sylvester is as close to a lock on having it as you can get," Rice University political scientist Bob Stein said, referring to one of two spots in December's anticipated runoff.

Otherwise there's nothing to get excited about here.  This poll is crap.  That's too bad for UH's Bob Stein... and also Bill King.

King has been the chief beneficiary of Garcia's decline, mainly because of growing support from Republican voters. King and Costello have been fighting it out for GOP hearts and minds, emphasizing financial issues like the city's growing pension obligations.

But Costello's backing of the drainage fee to bankroll flood control infrastructure has hurt him with many Republican voters, who consider it a poorly implemented new tax.

"Bill King has gained tremendously," Stein said. "He was barely measurable in our May poll. He's now at 9 percentage points. Most importantly from our May poll, his gain appears to be from Republican voters."

Republicans polled for this survey are breaking for King over Costello by a 4-to-1 ratio, Stein said.

Too much spin, too many undecideds, too much uncertainty all around to be making these statements, Dr. Stein.  Take all of what he says with a few shakers of salt, but don't put your blood pressure at risk.

King is going to spin it even faster than Stein with his next fundraising appeals.  And hey, if they somehow got it right and I didn't, you'll see me with the plateful of blackbird and a knife and fork.  But if I'm giving the pep talk to anybody's campaign staff today, those words are: Ignore this poll.  It's still anybody's game.

Update: Danny Surman dives deeper, comes to the same conclusion.

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