It’s hard to look at a poll of a race and trust its veracity when nearly half of voters surveyed were still on the fence.
That’s basically what happened for St. Pete Polls with the pollster’s survey last week in Tampa City Council races. Yet despite the high number of undecideds, the surveys checked a lot of boxes.
The District 1 contest is a glaring example. It predicted incumbent Joe Citro was in trouble, with challengers Alan Clendenin and Sonja P. Brookins both hovering around 20% support, about 7 percentage points ahead of Citro.
Before that poll (and perhaps even after) few would have predicted that a runoff would include anyone other than Citro and Clendenin, the two clear front-runners in terms of fundraising.
And even though the final numbers were a ways off from St. Pete Polls’ prediction — Citro ended up capturing about 20% of the vote, not 13% — it was spot on with its warning sign to Citro, with both Clendenin and Brookins securing a spot in the April 25th runoff.
St. Pete Polls nailed it even better in the District 4 race between incumbent Bill Carlson and challenger Blake Casper.
The St. Pete Polls survey predicted 43% support for Carlson to 26% for Casper, with 29% undecided. That 17-point margin wound up being 18, with Carlson capturing 59% of the vote in the two-way contest.
Gudes lost to Henderson by just over 1 percentage point. The St. Pete Polls survey showed him leading by about 6 percentage points. But the fact that he was so far away from the 50%+ needed to win, and that his lead was well within the poll’s very high margin of error, was sign enough of trouble ahead.
St. Pete Polls likewise missed the mark on the District 3 battle between incumbent Lynn Hurtak and challenger Janet Cruz, a former state Senator.
Hurtak led Cruz with 42.5% of the vote to Cruz’s 38.8% in Tuesday’s election. That’s a huge departure from the poll results, which found Cruz with a healthy lead, 17 percentage points ahead at 34% to 17%.
But the poll also found that 32% of voters were still undecided. It’s not usually the case that all undecided voters in a race swing toward one candidate, but if they broke Hurtak’s way in this race, it could explain the disparity.
Given that St. Pete Polls accurately predicted about 19-20% support for the three lower-tier candidates combined (including an almost perfect prediction of K.J. Allen’s performance), it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Hurtak claimed most of those undecideds.