The problem for Houston’s mayoral candidates is most people simply don’t know who they are.
In a busy shopping center, Bob Ivy was stopping off for groceries. He says he knows who he’ll vote for.
“Probably the most qualified, I don’t know about character or anything, but she’s the controller now. Her name is…uh..uh..see there you go…I can’t think of it. I see signs all around, but I can’t think of her name right now.”
Her name is Annise Parker. Gene Locke, Peter Brown and Roy Morales are also in the running for Houston’s top job.
Rice University Political Scientist Bob Stein, who authored the survey, says when presented with only the candidates
names, 68 percent of people were undecided on who they’d vote for.
“We then told them things about the candidate. We gave them a description of the candidate as the candidates have described themselves on their website, how their opponents have described them, how the newspaper, TV and radio stations have talked about the candidates. And when we told voters about that, not surprisingly, their opinions about the candidates and their support for the candidates changed dramatically. We went to about 54-56 percent who could have an opinion.”
Annise Parker has a slight lead, with 16 percent of people saying she gets their vote.
Although the race is nonpartisan, Roy Morales got the biggest bump on the informed survey, when people found out he’s a Republican. He went from three percent to 13 percent of respondents saying they’d vote for him.
Nearly 14 percent said they’d vote for Gene Locke, boosted by the African-American vote.
And Peter Brown’s numbers went up to ten percent when voters heard he’s on city council and supports tougher land use laws.
But that still leaves 46 percent undecided, even after they’ve heard more information.
“One take-home to that is that it’s very wide open.”
That’s Brandon Rottinghaus, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Houston. He says the survey, which polled 501 registered voters in Houston, shows no single candidate has a statistically significant lead over another.
“Even though there are small leads, depending on how you frame the questions, you still see that any of these candidates if they take an initiative to make a policy advance can make a serious stride forward.”
Back in the grocery store parking lot, one Houston voter says he doesn’t know anything about the candidates —
but he hopes that changes.
“As in any election, they need to make themselves known and their positions known and the issues that they’re running on.”
Tonight 11 News reveals the issues voters told us they care about the most this year. And the number one issue is NOT the economy. Tune in tonight to 11 News at 10.
Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
> To read the results from the uninformed survey, visit the 11 News website.