Abdul-Hakim Shabazz: Polling reveals mixed news for Hogsett

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Abdul-Hakim ShabazzWhen it comes to the race for Indianapolis mayor, there’s good news and bad news for incumbent Joe Hogsett.

My company, Indy Politics, with some assistance from Crossroads Public Affairs, recently conducted a poll of 400 likely Marion County voters. The poll was conducted Sept. 24-25 by ARW strategies and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9%.

And in a head-to-head match with Republican Jefferson Shreve, Hogsett was ahead by 10 percentage points. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Hogsett was under 50%. He leads Shreve 47% to 37%, and slightly more than 16% were undecided.

When asked if the city of Indianapolis was on the right track or wrong track, 54% thought the city was heading in the wrong direction, while only 27% said the city was on the right track. Eighteen percent were undecided.

When it comes to the issue of crime, 44% of voters said it was their biggest concern. And nearly 49% said the city was unsafe. Voters were split on which candidate would do better regarding crime and gun-related violence.

Thirty-nine percent said Shreve would do better on crime, 37% said Hogsett, and nearly 25% were undecided. And on the issue of gun-related violence, Hogsett did somewhat better at just under 40%, Shreve was 36%, while 24% were undecided.

Voters were also asked which candidate would better advocate for a more inclusive, local economy. They said Hogsett by 50% to Shreve’s 30%.

“On the one hand, if I’m Joe Hogsett, I would be disappointed to be below 50% in a city like Indianapolis, given the demographics,” pollster Andrew Weissert said. “This is a Democratic city, but he’s underperforming with his own base, only getting 81% of Democrats and is getting just 59% of Black voters. On the other hand, I don’t see signs Jefferson Shreve is capitalizing on Hogsett’s vulnerabilities. … If Shreve wants to win, he needs to be pulling a lot more votes from those groups.”

At this point in the game, if you’re an undecided voter, the odds are you’re probably not going to vote for Hogsett. Conventional political wisdom has always stated that undecides usually break for the challenger 2-1. Taking that math, what started out as a 47%-37% split is now a 52%-48% race. This is a long way from four years ago when Hogsett beat Jim Merritt 71%-27%. Hogsett still wins, but it’s a very close margin, particularly when Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 60%-40%.

Why is the race so close? There are two main reasons: Crime, which our polling said was the number one issue in this campaign. And second, third terms are always a little tricky to achieve; just ask former Mayor Bart Peterson.

The challenge for Shreve is to make the case to those undecided voters in the last few days of the campaign. He has the financial resources to compete, so getting the message out won’t be a problem; the trick is what will that message be, and will it resonate with those undecided voters?

If I may geek out here and use a “Star Wars” comparison, Shreve is like Luke Skywalker flying down the Death Star canyon, and Darth Vader is in hot pursuit. Han Solo isn’t coming to rescue him; he isn’t strong with the Force, and the empire covered up the hole in that exhaust shaft.

Shreve has one shot, and there’s no margin for error. He’d better make it count.•

__________

Shabazz is an attorney, radio talk show host and political commentator, college professor and stand-up comedian. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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