UH Hobby School poll finds Turner leading mayoral race; flooding big issue

With early voting set to begin today, a poll of likely voters suggests incumbent Sylvester Turner has a strong lead in Houston's high profile mayoral race.

The poll, conducted by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston, found Mayor Sylvester Turner leading with 43.5% support among likely voters, compared with 23.4% for challenger Tony Buzbee.

Bill King, who narrowly lost a runoff with Turner in 2015, was the top choice of 7.8% of likely voters, and City Councilman Dwight Boykins had support from 6.8%. Former City Councilwoman Sue Lovell captured 1.2% of support from likely voters.

Nearly one-in-five voters, or 17.2%, were undecided or declined to answer, although about one-third of undecided voters listed Turner as one of their top two potential options.

The data also showed Turner winning a runoff against each of the four major challengers.

“Turner’s support is solid, even as he has been attacked repeatedly by the other candidates,” said Renée Cross, senior director of the Hobby School. “Overall, the majority of people told us they think the city is on the right track, so why would they change?”

More than 57% of voters said the city is headed in the right direction, while 35% said it is on the wrong track. Almost 90% of Turner supporters are positive about the city’s direction; 77% of Buzbee supporters and 69% of King supporters say it is on the wrong track.

Voters split along racial and partisan lines, with Buzbee the top choice of Anglo/white voters (37.2%), Asian-American/Native American voters (41.2%) and Republicans (56.3%). Turner drew the most support from African-American voters (59.4%), Latino/Hispanic voters (42.6%), Democrats (63.0%) and Independents/Others (41.4%).

Mark P. Jones, political science fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute and a research associate at the Hobby School, noted that several of Turner’s leading challengers remain relatively unknown among likely voters, with more than half, two-thirds and four-fifths saying they did not know enough about King, Boykins and Lovell respectively to have an opinion about them.

“If these three underfunded candidates are unable to reach Houston voters, either Turner will win without a runoff on November 5, or he will face Buzbee in a December runoff," Jones said.

The City’s Top Problems

More than 41% of likely voters identified flooding as Houston’s most pressing problem, while another 22% listed crime – an issue raised especially by Buzbee and King – as the most important problem.

Among the poll’s other findings:

  • 9.0% identified property taxes as the Houston area’s most important problem, followed by traffic congestion (8.4%) and road quality (8.0%)
  • 31.9% said they have a favorable opinion of President Trump; 63.1% have an unfavorable opinion
  • 47.3% have a favorable opinion of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, while 39.1% have an unfavorable opinion
  • 27.9% have a favorable opinion of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, while 20.2% have an unfavorable opinion
  • 23.4% have a favorable opinion of Houston City Controller Chris Brown, while 5.2% have an unfavorable opinion

The poll, conducted by landline and mobile phone between Oct. 1 and Oct. 9, has a margin of error of plus/minus 4.4%.

Early voting runs through Friday, Nov. 1. The election is Nov. 5.

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