Decision Apopka 2018
By Reggie Connell/Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice
A record number of Apopka voters turned-out on Election Day in a historic Mayoral Election that pitted Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer against Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson. The voters spoke with certainty on who they wanted to lead them, but what exactly were the voters telling those leaders? Which issues were at the core of these results? When did this election break in a specific direction? Was it a continued mandate against incumbents?
It’s a mystery that needs to be solved.
This week The Apopka Voice began a search for answers and to better understand the 2018 election by conducting an online reader’s survey called The Apopka Voice Exit Poll.
The poll was open for 48 hours from Monday at noon until Wednesday at noon. 326 readers participated, and their answers were in many ways enlightening.
The questions, results, and analysis are posted below:
Question #1: In the Apopka municipal elections of 2018, which of the following issues were most important to you? Choose up to five issues.
Budget Management – 193 (16.2%), A vision for moving Apopka forward – 172 (14.4%), Economic Development – 153 (12.8%), Increasing Reserves – 146 (12.1%), Managed Growth – 137 (11.5%), Ideology of the candidate (9.4%) – 112, Experience – 97 (8.1%), Red Light Cameras – 90 (7.4%), Roots in Apopka – 61 (5.1%), Annexation of South Apopka – 26 (2%).
Question #2: In the Apopka municipal elections of 2018, which issue was the most important to you? Choose only one.
Budget Management – 81 (26.9%), A vision for moving Apopka forward – 76 (25.2%), Managed Growth – 37 (12.2%) Red Light Cameras – 32 (10.6%), Economic Development – 25 (8.3%), Ideology of the candidate 16 (5.3%), Roots in Apopka – 13 (4.3%), Increasing Reserves – 8 (2.6%), Experience – 8 (2.6%), Annexation of South Apopka – 5 (1.6%).
Both in Question #1 and #2 budget management scored as the number one issue. It is a topic that Nelson pounded Kilsheimer on throughout the election, and it appears to be what the Apopka voters resonated with the most. Another issue that gained a lot of attention that is hidden in the middle of the survey is Red Light Cameras, which 10.6% of respondents considered their number-one issue. The Red Light Camera voters did not win the election for Nelson, however, those that considered it their #1 issue certainly appear to be a big part of the margin of victory, and quite possibly the record-turnout in the 2018 election.
Question #3: In an election that both candidates generally share your voting values, which would you be most likely to vote for?
Incumbent – 227 (79.9%) Challenger – 45 (20.1%)
This is perhaps the most surprising result in the poll, given the fact that in the course of six years and four election cycles, Apopka voters have axed six straight incumbents running against a challenger, despite a national trend of incumbents in municipal elections winning between 88% to 93% of the contests they compete in against challengers to their seat. However, the poll reveals that given the choice of two candidates they assess as equally sharing their values, Apopka voters would stay with their incumbents as they did so predictably before 2012.
Question #4: In the Apopka mayoral election, which answer best describes your motivation in voting for the candidate you chose?
I voted FOR my candidate – 252 (84.8%) I voted AGAINST the opponent of my candidate – 45 (15.2%)
Incumbents usually take a hit when voters turn out to cast a ballot against a candidate, and while 15.2% does not sound high, it’s clearly high enough to decide an election.
Question #5: In the Apopka mayoral election, when did you make the decision to vote for your candidate?
Immediately after they announced their candidacy – 228 (69.9%) 90-plus days before the election 41 (12.5%) Just after the debate (January 31st) 36 (11%) 7-30 days before the election – 8 (2.4%) under seven days before the election 13 (3.9%)
The result of question #5 suggests that the high name recognition between Kilsheimer and Nelson resulted in an election that was essentially decided before the serious campaigning ever started. 82.4% of respondents had made their choice with over 90 days to spare before election day.
That result is telling in this election, but not typical of most.
The actual takeaway (for future elections) should be that 17.3% had NOT made their decision before the last 90 days of the election and that 11% of respondents made their choice around the time of the debate, which suggests that debates really do matter. It should also be noted that 6.3% Apopka voters made their decision in the last month, while 3.9% were undecided until the last week.
Because the margin of victory usually falls within the percentages of those that decide later, those are the votes that will likely decide most elections. So campaign hard Apopka candidates of the future, right up until 7 PM on election day. You never know how many people make their decisions as they walk into the voting booth.