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New poll suggests some Miami-Dade voters can be persuaded to back new-courthouse referendum


Proponents of a local ballot question that would issue $393 million in new Miami-Dade County government debt to build a civil courthouse released a new poll Thursday.

The public-opinion survey shows less opposition than polls conducted by the campaign before they started airing television and Spanish-language radio advertisements in the past week, backers say.

According to the poll, 37 percent of respondents favor bonds for the new courthouse, compared to 33 percent who oppose it and 31 percent who are undecided. However, respondents were not read the actual ballot question, which includes the $393 million figure -- a key consideration for voters.

Instead, the poll asked, "In the upcoming Nov. 4th election, will you vote for or against funding emergency repairs to the 1928 courthouse and the acquisition and construction of new court facilities by issuing general obligation bonds?"

The poll, conducted Monday and Tuesday by the Coral Gables-based and Republican-leaning Ai Advisory, has a 2.75 percent error margin.

It surveyed 1,244 likely voters -- a relatively large number -- using automated telephone calls, a method that relies mostly on voters with land lines. Those people tend to be older, wealthier and more conservative, compared to younger, less affluent and more liberal voters who might only have cell phones.

"The results show that the aggressive communication and voter outreach effort continues to work," campaign manager Christian Ulvert wrote in a memo to Building Blocks for Justice, the campaign's political action committee. "The latest numbers show that the referendum has picked up considerable support and has reversed the initial results from the benchmark poll from a month ago."

That poll showed 60 percent of respondents were against the courthouse when read the ballot language, with only 25 percent in favor. Using a different question this time around means the results aren't directly comparable, but Ulvert said questions in the previous poll that did not use the $393 million figure also showed opposition at around 60 percent.

Showcasing the existing courthouse's deterioration persuades some voters to support the effort, according to the latest poll. After being told about the conditions, support increases to 53 percent, compared to 28 percent in opposition and 18 percent undecided.

But there are significant partisan and ethnic divisions among respondents.

Democrats back the referendum 46-17 percent, as do whites (48-28 percent) and African-Americans (46-9), the results show. The opposite is true for Republicans, who oppose it 45-31 percent, voters without party affiliation (44-28 percent).

Cuban Americans and non-Cuban Hispanics are also against, though the results provided to the Miami Herald didn't show a complete percentage breakdown. They say only that 28 percent of Cuban Americans and 29 percent of non-Cuban Hispanics would vote "Yes," with more non-Cuban Hispanics undecided.