David Ibañez, Web – Managing Editor
Kolten Parker, Digital Executive Producer
Fares Sabawi, Digital Journalist
SAN ANTONIO – A first-of-its-kind poll released Tuesday shows that likely Bexar County voters have a generally positive view of the city, local governments, its leaders and their neighbors. The results also provide insight into which issues locals view as the most pressing facing the community and which major future projects they value most.
“The poll results are a positive report card for Bexar County. Voters think the community is headed in the right direction, are pleased with its quality of life, and see it as a good place to raise a family,” said David Metz, president of FM 3 Research, which conducted the poll.
The Bexar Facts-KSAT-Rivard Report Poll interviewed 651 likely voters in Bexar County last week by phone and internet, in English and Spanish, on a range of local issues and to gauge their confidence about officials in San Antonio and Bexar County. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4%.
The poll kicked off by asking respondents if they thought things in Bexar County and the city of San Antonio are “going in the right direction” or “on the wrong track.”
Bexar County: Right Direction 43% Wrong Track 17%
San Antonio: Right Direction 45% Wrong Track 22%
Participants were asked whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the two top leaders in local government, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.
In May 2019, Nirenberg was forced into a runoff by Greg Brockhouse in the city elections after he could only muster 49% percent of the vote. A month later, Nirenberg narrowly defeated Brockhouse by a 4% margin.
Wolff had no problem defeating his challengers in the November 2018 general election. Wolff grabbed 58% of the vote followed by Tom Rickhoff at 38% and Lauro Bustamante at 4%.
Nirenberg: Favorable 53% Unfavorable 31%
Wolff: Favorable 54% Unfavorable 16%
Respondents were also asked about the job performance of the San Antonio City Council, the Bexar County Commissioner’s Court and first-term Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, who is running for re-election.
SA City Council: Approve 48% Disapprove 33%
Bexar County Commissioner’s Court: Approve 46% Disapprove 16%
Salazar: Approve 59% Disapprove 19%
While a majority of respondents approve of the job local government does, the perception of the way the two government entities operate is another matter.
The participants were asked how confident they are about Bexar County and San Antonio operating in a way that is “open and accountable” to the public.
Bexar County: Confident 19% Not confident 76%
San Antonio: Confident 21% Not confident 73%
“Bexar County voters are largely disengaged with local government – with fewer than one in five saying they follow its activities ‘very closely’ – fairly typical in an era with fewer resources for media coverage of local government, and with most voters’ political attention focused squarely on events in Washington, D.C.,” Metz said.
Despite the perception of the way local government operate and the disengagement voters have with the entities, they nevertheless want the city and the county to address issues they feel are important to them.
Here are the top five open-ended responses offered.
Cost of living 10%
“Homelessness is a rising concern in Bexar County — nearly one in five voters volunteer it as the biggest problem facing the community, ” Metz said.
City officials are looking into various ideas to combat homelessness, including hiring a California company to help come up with a strategic homeless plan.
The city has also proposed a plan to use tourism money to help fund efforts that address the issue. The proposal is scheduled to be formally unveiled in March.
KSAT 12 News anchor Steve Spriester spent time on the streets of San Antonio to find out how homeless people live in a hour-long documentary-style special, “Life In the Shadows.”
Despite those issues, 91% of local likely voters believe that the San Antonio area is affordable, 84% said it’s a good place to raise a family and 4 out of 5 believe it’s a great place to live, according to the poll.
San Antonio is affordable 91%
Good place to raise a family 84%
Great place to live 81%
“I am not surprised to see that a majority of San Antonio residents think positively about the place they call home,” said Liza Barratachea of Bexar Facts. “I think the poll reflects a snapshot of the positive view today; however I don’t think that this means that the citizens of San Antonio are complacent or interested in the status quo. They identified several issues that require attention: crime, poverty, homelessness, diabetes, etc.”
While crime was seen as a “very serious” problem, voters believe the city is generally a safe place to live, with 82 percent saying they feel safe in their neighborhood and 71% saying they feel safe at a park closest to them. But only 59% said that downtown is safe.
Metz said poll results reveal that voters are willing to pay a sales tax to fund Edwards Aquifer protection (80%), Pre-K 4 SA (68%) and VIA (64%).
“Voters strongly endorse continued public investment in a range of local services that will maintain what they see as a very high quality of life,” Metz said.
Poll participants also back the controversial San Antonio Sick and Safe Leave Policy ordinance, which was recently blocked by a district judge.
Support ordinance 63%
Oppose ordinance 27%
Don’t know 10%