SAN ANTONIO – As the city and county grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, a new poll showed residents approve of the way Mayor Ron Nirenberg and County Judge Nelson Wolff are handling it.
The results of a Bexar Facts/KSAT/Rivard Report poll released Monday showed a 74% approval rating for Nirenberg and a 71% approval rating for Wolff among likely Bexar County voters. The results reflect 18 and 16 point jumps, respectively, for Nirenberg and Wolff since the last poll in early February.
UTSA Political Administration Professor Heywood Sanders said it is not uncommon in public emergencies for local leaders to be much more active and visible. The judge and mayor have both issued numerous orders and appear together in nightly televised updates about the community response to COVID-19.
“They simply look authoritative and in control and ... functioning as public leaders should in a case like this,” Sanders said.
The resulting approval ratings should allow the pair more latitude as they continue to chart the city and county’s course through the pandemic.
“I think, at this point, the public’s prepared to listen to them, hear them and pay attention to their recommendations,” Sanders said.
A bigger question is what the current approval ratings will translate to down the line.
While the pair might get the benefit of the doubt on pandemic-related issues, Sanders said that their approval ratings, or similarly high favorability ratings, won’t necessarily translate to voters later supporting any kind of public policy initiative or project they endorse.
So, something like the mayor’s transportation plans, which would require a sales tax vote, won’t be a sure bet when the crisis is through.
The same poll also showed Gov. Greg Abbott with a 70% approval rating. However, Sanders said these ratings could be affected by how the rest of the pandemic plays out, especially as Abbott moves to open the state.
“If that if that works and we keep the health consequences in check, death rates low and getting lower, then I think he as well as the county judge and the mayor will benefit from that,” Sanders said. “If we've got a second wave, all bets are off. It's going to be a very difficult thing.”
ABOUT THE POLL
The Bexar Fact/KSAT/Rivard Report was conducted through 668 interviews between Apr. 16-20 with Bexar County voters who are likely to cast a ballot in Nov. 2020. The survey was conducted online and via landline and wireless telephones.