San Francisco's race for mayor is too close to call, but Supervisor
Matt Gonzalez has a small lead among those most likely to vote Dec. 9,
according to a poll released Friday by CBS 5-TV.
The poll, taken earlier this week by SurveyUSA of New Jersey, gave
Gonzalez a surprising 49 to 47 percent lead over Supervisor Gavin Newsom among
those certain to vote in the runoff. Among probable voters, Newsom had a 46
percent to 43 percent advantage. Both results are within the poll's margin of
"This is welcome news," said Ross Mirkarimi, a spokesman for Gonzalez.
"This is fuel that adds to our fire.''
Gonzalez needed the boost. Although Newsom didn't get the 50 percent plus
one vote he needed to win outright in the nine-way Nov. 4 general election,
his 42-to-20-percent lead left progressive candidate Gonzalez with a steep
mountain to climb.
Matt Gonzalez is picking up voters from Alioto, Ammiano and Leal, the poll shows. Chronicle photo by Adam Traum
The new survey shows that Gonzalez is doing just that. Voters who backed
such losing candidates as Angela Alioto, Tom Ammiano and Susan Leal are moving
to Gonzalez 2 to 1, according to the poll. And it indicates the board
president is grabbing most of the voters who didn't show up at the polls in
Although Newsom and Gonzalez are running to replace Mayor Willie Brown,
who's being forced out of office by term limits, the mayor's race is shaping
up almost as a re-election effort with Newsom perceived as the incumbent.
"Newsom is the traditional candidate, and all the opposition (to Brown)
is lining up behind the second-place finisher," said Joseph Shipman, director
of election polling for SurveyUSA. "It's very impressive for Gonzalez to be
doing so well since he's running a very nontraditional campaign.''
Aside from Gonzalez's overall showing, the poll provides few surprises.
It shows that Gonzalez is running strong with the younger, 18- to 34-year-old
voters, among whom he leads Newsom 61 to 34 percent, and with voters who
identify themselves as liberal, where he has an overwhelming 73-to-23-percent
Not surprisingly, Gonzalez has a huge, 89-to-9-percent lead in the poll
among his fellow Green Party members.
"Gonzalez is trying to appeal via the Internet to people who haven't
voted much before and to political activists," Shipman said. "Newsom has
support from the Republicans, the Democrats are split almost evenly, and the
Greens are providing Gonzalez with his margin.''
The SurveyUSA poll is unusual in that it is a strictly automated survey.
Voters are dialed and questioned by a computer, listing their choices by
pushing buttons on the telephone keypad. Much of the company's work is with
television stations across the nation.
"These type of phone surveys are notoriously unreliable,'' said Eric Jaye,
Newsom's chief campaign consultant. "But we've always said that this race
would be close.''
According to the poll, Newsom has strong support among voters 55 and
older, who back him 60 to 31 percent. It also shows him beating Gonzalez 68 to
22 percent among conservative voters and 59 to 34 percent among those who
identify themselves as moderates.
While white voters are almost evenly split in the mayor's race, the poll
shows the Spanish-speaking Gonzalez has a strong, 62-to-33-percent lead among
Latino voters. Newsom outpolls Gonzalez 49 to 36 percent among black voters
and 53 to 36 percent among other ethnic groups, which includes Asian voters.
According to the poll, nearly 52 percent of the 1,012 registered voters
surveyed say they are certain to vote in the Dec. 9 runoff election, while 42
percent will probably vote. About 46 percent of San Francisco's registered
voters cast ballots in the Nov. 4 election, and the turnout typically drops in
the runoff vote.
The poll also had a surprisingly small number of undecided voters,
ranging from 4 percent among certain voters to 10 percent among probable
Shipman, SurveyUSA's polling expert, said that while it's improbable that
anything like the poll's 94 percent of likely voters would show up in December,
there is intense interest in the mayor's race.
"Many of the people who say they'll probably vote won't show up in the
end,'' he said. "But typically, about two-thirds to three-quarters of those
surveyed say they expect to vote and in this poll, it was over 90 percent.
Very, very few of the people we surveyed said they were unlikely to vote.''
In a tight race, turnout is what counts, and that gives an advantage to a
traditional candidate like Newsom, Shipman said.
"Gonzalez is exciting a lot of people,'' Shipman said. "But a traditional
candidate like Newsom typically has the advantage in getting out the vote,
because of his base of voters and his campaign machine, which can bring out
Both Gonzalez and Newsom will have their volunteers out on the streets
this weekend, trying to nail down the votes they need.
"The winner is going to be the one who can get their voters to the polls
on election day,'' Jaye said.
But for Gonzalez, the new poll numbers can energize his volunteers.
"This underscores that Matt's vision is connecting with a large number of
voters,'' said Mirkarimi. "It will certainly provide some pep for those early
Saturday morning volunteers who need something with their coffee.''
The poll was based on a telephone survey of 1,012 registered San
Francisco voters, including 955 likely voters and 524 certain voters. It was
taken between Tuesdayand Thursday. The margin of error for the certain voters
is plus or minus 4.4 percent.
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle