Feb 7, 2024 - News

Public opinion polling returns to San Antonio ahead of 2024 election

Illustration of polling, voting, and chart symbols on a grid

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The University of Texas at San Antonio has a new Center for Public Opinion Research that will measure how local voters feel about politics and policy heading into the 2024 election.

Why it matters: Most major cities have academic public opinion polling to measure local sentiment, but San Antonio has largely gone without it, even as the city has grown.

  • Public opinion polling brings a new opportunity for San Antonio voters to have their thoughts heard.

What they're saying: "This is a full-scale academic public opinion research center that can produce localized polls that represent the major concerns and issues faced by San Antonio and Bexar County residents," Bryan Gervais, director of the new center, said in a statement.

  • "We have a real opportunity to measure public opinion not only in the San Antonio metro area but, much like our counterparts in Houston and Austin, to measure public opinion throughout the state," Jon Taylor, professor and political science department chair, said in a statement.

Zoom in: Surveys will cover a range of topics, from school choice to political campaigns.

Details: UTSA looked at research and polling centers in academia across the country to build its own.

  • The research center launched last fall within the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts, but polling will begin this year ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
  • In addition to its polling, UTSA will provide local samples to other researchers and organizations — including local government — that want more information on residents' opinions.

Plus, the center aims to offer learning opportunities for UTSA students who will help run operations and conduct phone surveys.

  • The center expects to train and employ more than two dozen student employees this year.

Flashback: The nonprofit Bexar Facts, a public opinion polling project from the San Antonio Report and KSAT launched in 2020, but hasn't been active since 2022.

Of note: The 10-member advisory board for the new center includes Councilmember Manny Peláez, who represents the Northwest Side and is a prospective mayoral candidate next year; Alanna Reed, communications director for the city; and Robert Rivard, co-founder of the nonprofit newsroom San Antonio Report.

The big picture: Public trust in polling has waned in recent years, as it has in many institutions.

  • But Gervais said that only pushes the center to be more innovative and experimental.

The bottom line: "Due to a lack of polling infrastructure here, organizations, agencies and researchers have had to rely on sub-standard survey practices to study San Antonio area residents," Gervais said. "We want to change that."

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