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In a new poll, San Antonio voters said they would overwhelmingly support three local ballot measures in November authorizing use of sales tax revenue to fund Pre-K 4 SA, mass transit, and workforce development. Support for the latter, however, hinges on their understanding of the City’s commitment to continue its aquifer protection program.

The latest Bexar Facts/KSAT/San Antonio Report poll results released Tuesday show nearly two-thirds of respondents would support renewing a one-eighth-cent sales tax for Pre-K 4 SA. In addition, nearly 60 percent said they would support using a separate one-eighth-cent tax to fund VIA Metropolitan Transit starting in 2026, and 64 percent support using that sales tax for the SA: Ready to Work workforce development programs until 2026. None of the measures would result in a tax increase.

“Obviously, given the level of concern that people have about the condition of the economy, I think [workforce development is] a positive for people,” said pollster David Metz, whose firm conducted the polling Sept. 17-21. “The fact that it says ‘no net tax increase’ right there in the ballot language is also helpful.”

However, fewer respondents supported the workforce development proposal when informed that funding for aquifer protection would be replaced by money funded through the City of San Antonio’s budget.

Support for the workforce development measure drops to 47 percent when the source of the aquifer funding was explained.

“All of a sudden the numbers drop dramatically, I suspect because voters were saying: ‘Wait a minute, you’re going to take money from aquifer protection?'” Metz said. “I don’t think that was clear to them on hearing the ballot” language.

This graphic shows support for workforce development initiative drop after discussion of aquifer funding replacement.
This graphic shows support for workforce development initiative drop after discussion of aquifer funding replacement. Credit: Courtesy /. Bexar Facts

A portion of the ballot language reads that the workforce funding will start “upon the full collection of the sales and use tax previously authorized by the voters for the Edwards Aquifer protection venue project and the parks development and expansion venue project.”

City Council approved its funding strategy for the Edwards Aquifer Protection Plan earlier this month, but two Council members and environmentalists said that scheme doesn’t ensure the level of sustained funding the sales tax does. Since 2010, San Antonio voters have overwhelmingly opted to use sales tax revenue to pay landowners not to develop their properties over the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer and to build a greenway trail system. The trail system funding is not included in the City’s budget plans so far, and Bexar County has yet to dedicate funding toward it.

The Pre-K 4 SA proposition is a reauthorization of sales tax funding that San Antonio voters first approved in November 2012. Democrats are twice as likely to support Pre-K 4 SA as Republicans, the new poll results show. Eighty-four percent of Democrats said they would vote to renew the program compared to 40 percent of Republicans. Independents, however, are more in line with Democrats on the issue, with 64 percent in support.

The poll also asked about key state and local races on November’s ballot. In the state’s U.S. Senate race, 49 percent of voters support Democrat MJ Hegar over Republican incumbent John Cornyn, who trailed by 11 points with 13 percent undecided.

Fifty-eight percent of women surveyed supported Hegar, who has never held elective office, while 45 percent of men said they supported Cornyn. Hegar also leads among voters of color (58 percent) in Bexar County. Meanwhile, 54 percent of whites support Cornyn.

In local elections, nearly 60 percent of voters said they would vote to reelect Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, who is facing Republican Gerard Rickoff. Twenty-seven percent of respondents favored Rickhoff, with 14 percent undecided.

The poll also showed strong support for incumbent Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti, a Democrat, over Republican Stephen Pennington. Uresti led Pennington by a 27-point margin with 17 percent undecided.

The poll also asked voters about K-12 distance learning amid the pandemic, police reform, and voting access. The complete poll results can be found at bexarfacts.org.

The past three Bexar Facts polls have tracked how people feel about the coronavirus pandemic, asking them whether the worst of the pandemic is over or is yet to come. In the September poll, more voters seemed optimistic about the crisis than in past polls, with 41 percent saying the worst is yet to come, a decrease from 57 percent in June and 58 percent in April.

However, more voters (20 percent) responded to the question by saying they were unsure compared to June (13 percent) and April (11 percent).

“At the same time, when we asked them whether they are more concerned about social distancing ending too soon or going on too long and causing damage to residents’ livelihood, those numbers really haven’t budged,” Metz noted. Nearly 60 percent think social distancing will end too soon.

This graph shows poll results indicating that most people are concerned social distancing will end too soon.
This graph shows poll results indicating that most people are concerned social distancing will end too soon. Credit: Courtesy / Bexar Facts

Meanwhile, two-thirds of voters said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, but only half would get it before the end of the year.

The latest Bexar Facts poll surveyed 619 individuals online and by phone (both landlines and cell phones) between Sept. 12-21 in English and Spanish. The margin of error is +/- 4 percent with a 95 percent confidence level, which is typical of large community polls.

As people look at the poll data, it’s important to remember that this was a survey of registered voters in Bexar County – not the community as a whole, Metz said. Voters are on average older, whiter, more affluent, more educated, and more likely to own a home, he noted.

“[We] have a bunch of procedures in place to make sure that the people we interview are representative of the characteristics of the broader electorate,” Metz said.

This article has been updated to correct the polling dates to Sept. 17-21.

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@sareport.org