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Monday, June 13, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

In poll, residents reveal Adler is best of Austin, transportation worst

A poll commissioned by the Austin Monitor with the help of sponsors shows that more people approve of Mayor Steve Adler’s job performance than that of City Council as a whole — with 51 percent of respondents endorsing Adler’s leadership, compared to 40 percent approval for Council.

The poll was conducted by phone from June 3-5 by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, North Carolina, and included the opinions of 600 Austin voters. It has a margin of error of 4 percent. Jim Williams, who headed up the poll, spoke with the Monitor by phone on Friday to give his take on the results.

In addition to the approval ratings, 49 percent of those polled said they would vote to re-elect their Council members.

“The popularity of the mayor is definitely a notch above City Council, which we thought was interesting because the mayor is obviously part of City Council,” said Williams. “It suggests to me that he’s done something or has a profile that kind of insulates him from whatever dissatisfaction that people might have with what’s going on in city government.”
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The poll also inquired about issues facing Austin. Respondents overwhelmingly identified transportation as the chief issue facing the city — with 51 percent saying it was the “worst thing about living in Austin.” Second to transportation was housing, at 20 percent, followed by “something else.”

“It is striking,” said Williams. “Most of the time, jobs and the economy is always a big issue no matter where you poll. Here it was like 3 percent. That’s unusual. And the transportation thing, it’s a super high level of dissatisfaction with that. … When you give people five or six choices and one gets to be higher than 50 percent, that’s a pretty high indication that people are really unhappy with that one issue. It’s rare to have that much agreement on anything.”
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Speaking of transportation, a majority of those polled continued to support the rejection of Proposition 1, with 54 percent saying they approved of the way Council has handled the ride-hailing issue, compared to 40 percent who disapprove (and 6 percent who remain unsure).

In what could be related news, 41 percent of those polled think Council puts too many regulations on businesses. Thirty-seven percent think there are “about the right amount” and only 16 percent think there are not enough regulations on businesses.

Williams found that reaction interesting, particularly in terms of how the opinions broke down by age.

“Normally on a question like that, the older you are, the more likely you are to be like ‘government needs to get off my back,’ and young people are usually less concerned about stuff like that,” said Williams. “But in this case, the youngest-age cohort is actually the most likely to say that they think there are too many regulations, and I think that’s a direct result of the ride-sharing issue.”

“We’ve seen this in other places, too,” he continued. “Young people are really into this whole gig economy. They love the ride-sharing; they love companies like that. So when it gets shut down by City Council … they don’t like that.”

The poll was made possible with the generous support of Big Red Dog, Buie & Co. Public Relations, Austin Music People, Perry Lorenz, David Armbrust, Richard Suttle, the Workers Defense ProjectAction Fund and the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that a majority of Austinites voted against Proposition 1 in May and to reflect the accurate name of the Workers Defense Action Fund.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

Mayor Steve Adler: Mayor of the city of Austin, elected in November 2014

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