Low voter confidence in government likely to hurt turnout in Houston elections, expert says

Rice University political scientist Bob Stein expects local turnout will fall short of 25% in the first round of voting for Houston’s next mayor and could fall to 15% in a runoff.

Voting Sign
Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media

Texas is notorious for low voter participation rates. But turnout in the upcoming Houston elections could be particularly low.

There's been a steady drumbeat of negative political stories in recent months, such as former President Donald Trump's multiple indictments, President Joe Biden's low poll numbers and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment trial.

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"None of this portends well for what I will call a high level of trust and confidence in government institutions," Rice University political scientist Bob Stein said. "I see nothing out there that would suggest that voters are feeling not only efficacious about their vote but that it’s important to them. There’s a sense of I think, if nothing else, not so much fatigue, as this isn’t where I’m going to put my time."

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Eight years ago, when Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner won his first four-year term, local turnout topped 30%. This time, Stein said, "if we, for instance, get a 23%, 24% turnout for the mayor’s race and all the other races on the ballot, that would be robust. That’ll drop down to 15% in a runoff."