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New poll: What likely Raleigh voters care about (and who’s leading the mayoral race)

Here’s a look at the Raleigh mayoral candidates

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarland is not seeking an other term. Here's a look at the candidates who have announced to replace her in this year's mayoral race. Election day is Oct. 8, 2019.
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Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarland is not seeking an other term. Here's a look at the candidates who have announced to replace her in this year's mayoral race. Election day is Oct. 8, 2019.

Folks looking to lead Raleigh may want to focus on keeping homes affordable, fixing traffic congestion and managing growth, according to a new poll.

They’ll also probably want to stop saying the word “density.”

The poll, conducted by Fallon Research and Communications, was paid for by the Triangle Community Coalition and unveiled at an event Friday afternoon.

Raleigh’s municipal election is Oct. 8 and all eight seats, including the mayor’s, are up for grabs.

Of the likely voters polled, 65% believe the city is on the right track compared to 18% who believe the city is on the wrong track.

Issues

There wasn’t a “dominant issue” but 23% of likely voters felt “ensuring housing costs are affordable” should be the top priority for city leaders in the next two years.

Managing growth and construction was second at 19%, followed by reducing traffic congestion at 16%. Preventing tax increases and bringing “more good jobs” to the area each came next with 14% each.

Wake County adds more than 60 people each day.

Half of likely voters felt housing costs too much. That jumped up to 70% when likely voters who were black and/or rent answered the question.

Here is what percentage of likely voters across the city thought housing costs are too high

  • District A (North Raleigh): 42%
  • District B (Northeast Raleigh): 60%
  • District C (Southeast Raleigh): 65%
  • District D (Southwest Raleigh): 50%
  • District E (Northwest Raleigh): 38%

Nearly 50% of likely voters across the city felt that traffic congestion was somewhat of a problem while 28% felt it was a “very big problem.” District B has the greatest frustration with traffic with 41% believing traffic was a very big problem.

Housing is no longer affordable when it costs more than 30% of a family’s budget, according to the North Carolina Housing Coalition. Nearly one in four houses — 100,000 families — in Wake County are considered cost burdened. And 41% of renters in Wake County have difficulty affording their homes.

Density

One poll question highlighted the importance of using language to convey a concept.

Likely voters were asked if they would support a candidate who favors “higher density growth, so that future housing will use less land [and] be closer to work and employment centers and near public transit.”

Nearly 50% said they would be more likely, while 38% said they would be less likely.

However, the “more likely” number jumped to 75% when “higher density growth” was changed to “walkable urban development growth.”

Mayoral race

Filing for the municipal election begins July 5, but several candidates have already said they’re running.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane is not seeking a fifth term and five candidates have already announced they want her seat. All but musician and political novice George Knott, were included in a question about whom likely voters would consider if the election were today.

Nearly 60% were unsure.

Raleigh attorney Charles Francis had a slight lead at 17%, with former council member Mary Ann Baldwin at 15%.

Political activist Zainab Baloch had 5% followed by former Wake County commissioner Caroline Sullivan at 4%.

Baldwin, who was in attendance Friday, quipped she planned to change her name to “unsure.”

The poll also found 47% of likely Raleigh voters either frequently or occasionally read The News & Observer.

Methodology

The surveyor called 401 randomly selected municipal election voters between May 6 and May 9. People were called on the phone, including cell phones. The margin of error was 4.89% meaning a response of 50% could range from 45% to 55%. The participants’ age, race, gender and geography are “represented in proportion to their percentages of the city’s municipal electorate.”

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and received many North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting. She is a 2012 alumna of Elon University. Reach her at 919-829-4807 or ajohnson@newsobserver.com.

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