Chapel Hill’s favorite politician lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.
That’s according to a poll carried out from October 19-21 by Public Policy Polling, which found that 70 percent of Chapel Hill residents approve of Joe Biden’s job performance.
Other strong conclusions from the poll: Respondents are white (86 percent), hold post-graduate degrees (57 percent), and see housing as a “very important” issue in next week’s election (59 percent).
But in the race for mayor between sitting town council members Jess Anderson and Adam Searing, neither candidate could claim a clear edge. And since President Biden is not expected to make an endorsement, the election will come down to who can mobilize the most voters in the week before polls close.
When asked who they would vote for if the election were held today, 30 percent of poll respondents said Anderson, 29 percent said Searing, and 40 percent said “not sure.” That’s a pretty striking number of undecideds, given that Election Day is Tuesday, November 7, and early voting has already started across the county.
Despite the time crunch, “Not sure” had a great showing all the way down the ballot, beating out every single town council candidate for the four open seats.
“It’s unusual for the mayor’s race to still be this undecided,” says Tom Jensen, the director of Public Policy Polling. “When we did a poll at a comparable time in 2015 only 18 percent of voters were undecided.”
Not every town of 60,000 gets a $2,000-$3,000 poll commissioned for its municipal elections, but Chapel Hill benefits from a personal connection to Public Policy Polling.
“I’m interested as a resident of the community who happens to run a polling company,” says Jensen.
Jensen chalks the high number of undecideds up to candidates playing “inside baseball” instead of trying to attract that vacillating 40 percent.
That inside baseball has included arguments over the definition of an “endorsement,” what constitutes “dark money,” and which of the heavily acronymed advocacy groups truly support affordable housing.
“I feel like it’s been a lot of lobbing accusations from one side to the other that is interesting to the people who are super invested in the election, but ultimately does not move very many votes,” Jensen says.
Anderson and Searing are also both Democrats, which may make the decision harder for liberal Chapel Hill voters who can often rely on party affiliations when faced with a long list of candidates.
In these last days, Jensen says the council candidates should try to camp out at early voting sites.
“The best place to influence people is right as they’re going in to vote,” he says.
Some were clearly already following that strategy this week as they tweeted from spots around town.
“Come on out for a low key early voting experience with no line!” said Theodore Nollert from the Chapel Hill Town Library.
“I was #141 to vote today at the Seymour center. Come join me!” said Renuka Soll with a selfie on Thursday.
Carrboro Town Hall, Chapel of the Cross, Seymour Senior Center, and Chapel Hill Library are all open for early voting through Saturday, November 4.
Read the poll below.Public-Policy-Polling-Chapel-Hill-October-2023