The fate of the Astrodome rests with voters who’ll decide whether Harris County should borrow $217-million to convert the dormant building into a multi-purpose event center for everything from conventions and trade shows to small concerts. The bond issue would raise property taxes on the owner of a $200,000 home an estimated $8 a year.
The KHOU 11 News – KUHF News Election Poll shows 45% of surveyed voters favor the bond issue, while 35% oppose it and 20% are undecided. That’s very good news for dome supporters, because the poll numbers indicate they need to win over only one out of four undecided voters.
“And there are, what, 20% that are still undecided?” says Dene Hofheinz, who’s helping spearhead the campaign to save the dome. “We still have a little bit of work to do. We still have a little bit of work to do. I feel very confident about it, though. I really do.”
The poll turned up some demographic curiosities. Anglos and Hispanics are more likely to support the referendum than African-Americans. And voters upbeat about the city’s future are more likely to support saving the dome.
But perhaps the most unexpected result popped out of data about the age of people who back the referendum. Earlier surveys showed voters old enough to have seen games at the Astrodome were more likely to support saving it, while younger voters leaned toward demolishing it.
“That age difference has disappeared,” says Bob Stein, the Rice University political scientist and KHOU analyst who conducted the poll. “I suspect it’s because the proposal that’s before the voters that we read them is not to just save the Astrodome, but to convert it into some type of economic development. The justification here is that fixing up the Astrodome won’t just cost us money, it will make us money.”
The Chronicle adds some more detail.
A KUHF/KHOU poll, conducted by Rice University political scientist Bob Stein, shows 45 percent of likely county voters would support the bond issue and 35 percent would oppose it, while 20 percent are undecided. The poll surveyed 650 likely county voters and has a 3.8 percentage point margin of error.
Another poll, conducted for the campaign working to drum up support for the dome project, shows a tie: 43 percent in favor and 43 percent opposed, with the rest undecided. The group’s poll surveyed 500 likely county voters and has a 4.5 percentage point margin of error.
While the results are “not spectacular” for proponents of the initiative, Stein said he gets the sense that the initiative will end up passing simply because there is no organized opposition, meaning the campaign will get to “control the message.”
“I thought these numbers were pretty good numbers for them to start with,” he said.
The two polls reached opposite conclusions about, among other things, support for the initiative among voters who live inside and outside the city of Houston.
The KUHF/KHOU poll found that support for the bond initiative is slightly greater outside city limits than inside, something Stein said he could not clearly explain.
Former County Judge Jon Lindsay, co-chair of the “New Dome” political action committee, said the campaign’s internal survey indicates that “we’re in pretty good shape in the inner city, we’re not in good shape in the unincorporated area.”
The sample is larger because this is all of Harris County; the Mayor’s poll was a subsample of that. Determining “likely” voters for this referendum is a bit dicey, as unlike with the Mayor’s race past voting history may not be an accurate predictor. Non-Houston people in Harris County, who would otherwise only have state constitutional amendments to push them to the polls in odd-numbered years, may well feel more motivation to vote on the fate of the Dome. It’s certainly gotten a fair amount of attention in the news, and I think a lot of people will have an opinion on it one way or another. The fact that the “I don’t know” response was much smaller than in the Mayor’s race suggests that at the very least more people feel like they know something about this referendum.
The detail about younger voters being more likely to support the referendum is fascinating and not at all what I’d have expected. The higher level of support outside Houston is a curiosity and may just be one of those weird things that sometimes happens with polls. If that’s the case, then the KHOU/KUHF poll may be slightly overstating support for the referendum. Hard to say, and we don’t have any detail on the referendum campaign’s poll, so a comparison is tricky. Ideally, everyone will do another poll in mid to late October, and we’ll see how those look. At the very least, it will give the pro-Dome campaign a chance to have an effect, and it will also allow for any organized opposition, if such exists, to do whatever it may do.
Speaking of the pro-Dome campaign, Swamplot has its first video:
Here’s the Youtube link. The NewDomePAC channel has one other video on it, a longer effort that gives some of the Dome’s storied history. I like the pitch in that 30-second ad. It’s probably the case that if you asked some random person elsewhere in the world what they thought of when they heard the word “Houston”, the answer you’d get most often would be “the Astrodome”. That’s something valuable, and it shouldn’t be discarded lightly. We’ll see if it has any effect on what the voters think. Texpatriate, Texas Leftist, and PDiddie have more.