SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: The Bexar Facts-KSAT-San Antonio Report poll is a partnership that launched in Feb. 2020 with the aim of informing and engaging the San Antonio community. See the results of the fifth poll here.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg is in a strong position to claim his third term at the helm of the city in the May 1 election, according to a new poll of likely voters released Tuesday.
The results are included in the Bexar Facts-KSAT-San Antonio Report 2021 Q1 poll and suggest more than half (56%) of San Antonio voters plan to cast a ballot for Nirenberg.
The Mayor’s biggest threat, according to the poll, is Greg Brockhouse, who narrowly lost to Nirenberg in a 2019 runoff. A total of 21% of respondents said they’d vote for Brockhouse and another 19% say they are undecided.
“The Mayor is an extremely strong position,” said Dave Metz, founder of FM3 Research, which conducted the poll. “Throughout the past year, a consistent and sizable majority has approved of his performance in office – and for any incumbent, that’s the key to re-election. Campaigns like this are more often a referendum on the incumbent than an even-handed choice between candidates – and the voters think that Nirenberg has done a good job under some very challenging circumstances.”
The poll was conducted from March 23 to 29 by phone and email in both English and Spanish. A total of 618 Bexar County residents were surveyed in the poll, but questions about the May 1 election were only asked of San Antonio residents who said they plan to vote, which was about 400 people. The poll has a 4% margin of error. You can read more about the methodology here.
Recently released campaign fundraising figures also show Nirenberg has raised significantly more money than Brockhouse, who is distantly followed by the rest of the pack.
Nirenberg has repeatedly refused to appear in a debate with Brockhouse, including multiple invites by KSAT and the San Antonio Report. Instead, the two will appear separately on April 13 and 14 in a mayoral forum broadcast on KSAT.com. On April 15, a third candidate, Denise Gutierrez-Homer, will appear — 4% of respondents in the poll said they plan to vote for Gutierrez-Homer.
Both Nirenberg and Brockhouse are former San Antonio City Council members who sparred in Nirenberg’s first attempt at reelection and Brockhouse’s first attempt at mayor in 2019. Both have raised a significant amount more in the 2021 campaign than at this point in the previous cycle, the San Antonio Express-News first reported.
But that might be where their commonalities end. The last campaign was fierce and though city offices are not elected by party, the two top candidates fall on opposite ends of the political spectrum.
That ideological difference is on display in the latest polling.
Brockhouse is performing best with Republicans than any other major demographic group in the poll but is only leading Nirenberg among self-identified Republicans 49-20. Compare that to Nirenberg’s 84% support among Democrats or his 45-23% lead among independents.
“The breadth of Nirenberg’s support is really striking; he has majority backing across lines of age, gender, and ethnicity. Republicans are really his only detractors, and Brockhouse has not fully consolidated support from them yet – winning support from less than half,” Metz said. “Obviously, there are still some weeks to go, and many more candidates on the ballot than we were able to test in the poll. But at this point, it’s clearly the Mayor’s race to lose.”
Brockhouse said in a statement Tuesday that his own “data indicates when we deliver our message to voters, our share of the electorate grows, while (Nirenberg’s) shrinks.”
“We were all waiting for Ron’s former staff and contributors to weigh in. The owner of Bexar Facts was on Ron Nirenberg’s campaign finance committee in February. I hope Ron’s staff, donors, and voters see this poll and act accordingly,” Brockhouse said. “My supporters know we’re an underdog campaign. It’s literally our brand... We’re right where we were in 2019 and we are confident we’re on the same trajectory.”
Other sections of the poll that provide context for the mayoral race suggest Nirenberg’s support is buoyed by the public’s perception of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Local voters strongly approve of local government’s performance on both the health and economic aspects of the pandemic – certainly by comparison to the way state government has handled the issue,” Metz said. “Even though voters are less satisfied with government’s response to homelessness or the winter storm, the high marks they have gotten for COVID seem to be keeping the mayor in a strong position.”
Since Nirenberg’s 2.2-point margin over Brockhouse in the 2019 runoff, both the pandemic and the 2020 presidential election have altered the political landscape.
Nirenberg’s job approval rating — along with most elected officials and even government agencies at the local and state level — saw a major uptick during the initial months of the pandemic. While some of those ratings plummeted for state officials like Gov. Greg Abbott and now power operators CPS Energy and ERCOT, Nirenberg’s approval numbers have only seen a fraction of the drop. The latest numbers show a 67% approval rating among residents, with 29% disapproving.
Early voting for the May 1 election is April 19-27.
The previous Bexar Facts-KSAT-San Antonio Report poll was conducted weeks ahead of the November 2020 election. Then, the poll forecasted margins of victory in Bexar County for Joe Biden and U.S. Senate candidate MJ Hegar within one percentage point of the final vote result.
As with that election, you can find all the live results and live news coverage by KSAT anchors, reporters and digital journalists on May 1 on KSAT.com. Find voting resources, news and analysis on our Vote 2021 page.