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Wednesday, October 19, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Poll shows Zimmerman, Gallo vulnerable

Poll numbers for City Council Member Don Zimmerman and challenger Jimmy Flannigan show the two neck and neck in a race to represent District 6, according to two surveys conducted in September and October for the Austin Monitor by Public Policy Polling of North Carolina.

The most recent poll, which was conducted Oct. 13-15, shows Flannigan with 45 percent of the vote, Zimmerman with 43 percent and undecided voters with 13 percent. There are no other candidates in the race. The gap between the two is within the margin of error, which is plus or minus 6.4 percent.

Public Policy Polling conducted a similar poll for the Monitor Sept. 23-26, finding that Flannigan had support from 47 percent of those polled, Zimmerman had support from 42 percent and 11 percent were undecided. Again, the difference between the two candidates is within the margin of error.

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The Monitor‘s pollster surveyed 259 District 6 voters in September and 234 in October. In each instance, 53 percent were identified as women and 47 percent were identified as men. In October, Democrats, Republicans and independents were equally divided among the respondents. Of those polled, 69 percent identified themselves as white, 12 percent as Hispanic, 9 percent as Asian and 4 percent as African-American, with 6 percent as “something else.” The breakdown was similar in September.

All of the polling was conducted by autodialing, or robocalling. It is illegal to use automated phone dialing machines to call cell phones, so the poll was conducted only among people with landlines.

Austin pollster Mark Littlefield has also been surveying voters in District 6. His polling results were very similar to what the North Carolina pollster found. For example, Littlefield polled 209 District 6 voters in mid-July, at which time he found 39 percent for Zimmerman and 37 percent or Flannigan, with 24 percent undecided.

More people have likely made up their minds since then, and Littlefield’s Sept. 20 poll of 300 voters showed 40 percent for Zimmerman and 44 percent for Flannigan. But, according to the poll, Zimmerman had only 1 percent more in his camp than in July, while Flannigan had gained 7 percent. Sixteen percent remain undecided in District 6, according to the poll, which was also conducted by autodialing, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percent.

Public Policy Polling also conducted polls for the Monitor in the District 7 and District 10 races and found the incumbents to be substantially ahead of their opponents.

However, while District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool appears to be headed toward victory in November, District 10 Council Member Sheri Gallo could be facing a runoff to hold onto her office.

In a survey of District 10 voters conducted Sept. 23-26 with 467 voters responding, 44 percent said they would vote for Gallo and 23 percent said they would vote for her nearest competitor, Alison Alter. Robert Walker had 5 percent and Nicholas Virden at 3 percent of voters in that survey.

In the District 10 October survey, 42 percent of voters questioned said they would vote for Gallo, with Alter being the choice of 25 percent. Twenty-one percent of those surveyed in District 10 said they were undecided, with 9 percent saying they would choose Walker and 3 percent preferring Virden. The margin of error in this poll was plus or minus 5 percent.

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The October poll surveyed 384 District 10 voters, of whom 53 percent were women and 47 percent were men. Forty-two percent of those questioned said that they were Democrats, 25 percent said that they were Republicans and 33 percent said they were independent.

Peck Young, director of the Center for Public Policy and Political Studies at Austin Community College, said the numbers are “not great for Gallo.” Young said the most likely scenario for District 10 is that there will be a runoff and that Gallo will have “a pretty substantial lead over her opponent,” presumed to be Alter, going into the December runoff.

In District 7, incumbent Council Member Leslie Pool has a solid lead with 48 percent of respondents telling Public Policy Polling in October that they would vote for her if the election were held the day they were queried. Her only opponent is Natalie Gauldin. Gauldin was the choice of 25 percent of those surveyed, with 26 percent saying they were undecided. The margin of error in this race is 6.1 percent.

In September, the Monitor‘s pollster found that 30 percent of District 7 voters were undecided, a decrease from September of four percentage points. Gauldin gained one percentage point, and Pool gained two percentage points.

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Littlefield also polled District 7 voters, with results showing that Pool has increased her percentage of the vote from 38 percent in mid-July to 44 percent on Sept. 20, with 349 voters responding. In July, 17 percent said they would vote for Gauldin, and in September, she had 20 percent of those responding. The number of undecided voters is unusually high in this race. Forty-six percent of voters interviewed in July said that they were unsure whom they would vote for, and that number had fallen to 36 percent by Sept. 20. The margin of error was 5.2 percent.

Young expressed confidence that Pool would be the victor in her race on Nov. 8.

The survey also asked participants questions about their approval or disapproval of Mayor Steve Adler and City Council as a whole. In general, voters surveyed gave Adler considerably higher marks than they did the Council as a whole. However, Adler’s approval rating has slipped since last summer, when Public Policy Polling carried out a similar poll for the Monitor.

In our June 3-5 survey of 600 Austin voters throughout the city, 53 percent said they approved of Adler’s job performance. Of the five districts up for re-election in November, Adler was most popular in District 2 (66 percent approved) and least popular in District 4 (36 percent approved).

In District 6, Adler had a 57 percent approval rating in June, but in the October survey, only 40 percent of those surveyed said they approved of the mayor’s job performance, as compared to 42 percent who disapproved and 19 percent who were undecided. Among the 234 District 6 voters that were polled, 58 percent said they disapproved of the job Council is doing, while only 27 percent said they approved and 15 percent said they were not sure.

In District 7, Adler’s approval rating has slipped from 50 percent in June to 41 percent in October, with 37 percent disapproving and 22 percent not sure. Of the 256 District 7 voters, 49 percent said they disapproved of the job that Council is doing, with 31 percent saying they approved and 20 percent not sure. The margin of error is plus or minus 6 percent.

In District 10, Adler’s approval rating was 51 percent in June, and his current approval rating is 44 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent among 384 District 10 voters. Among those surveyed in that district, 54 percent said they disapproved of the job Council is doing, with only 29 percent saying they approved and 17 percent saying they were not sure.

Photo by Rama made available through a Creative Commons license.

The Austin Monitor would like to acknowledge the generous support of Big Red Dog, Buie & Co. Public Relations, Austin Music People, Perry Lorenz, David Armbrust, Richard Suttle, the Workers Defense Project Action Fund and the Laborers’ International Union of North America for making this poll possible. The Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.

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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.

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