voting booth

Safety and schools top the list of issues that weigh on the minds of Cleveland voters.

Justin Bibb leads Kevin Kelley in BW CRI mayoral poll; 40% still undecided

October 12, 2021

A new survey of Cleveland registered voters conducted Sept. 27-Oct. 8 by the Baldwin Wallace University Community Research Institute (CRI) finds nonprofit executive Justin Bibb leading Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley, 34%-25%, but a big 40% of respondents remain undecided with the mayoral election about three weeks away. 

Differing demographic margins

voting boothThe combination phone and web panel survey results show Bibb leading Kelley among all respondent ages and races, ranging from a six-point lead among 35- to 54-year-olds to a 12-point lead among 18- to 34-year-olds.  

Among those who expressed a preference, Black voters favor Bibb by 26 points (34%-18%), while Bibb holds a narrow three-point lead among white voters (35%-32%). Bibb's lead is 10 points (34%-24%) among Hispanic/Asian-American/Native American/Middle Eastern/mixed-race voters (which were combined as "Other" due to small respondent samples).  

"In our snapshot of voter preference, Justin Bibb continues the strong lead he held coming out of the primary, but there is a large group of undecided voters," said Tom Sutton, director of BW CRI. "It's likely that the 40% who are undecided includes a mix of primary voters who chose a candidate other than Bibb or Kelley. Each candidate has received endorsements from East Side primary opponents (Zach Reed for Bibb, and Basheer Jones for Kelley)."

Clevelanders on the issues

Safety and schools top the list of issues that weigh on the minds of Cleveland voters. The poll asked respondents to choose up to three "concerns" from a list of 15. Cleveland voters chose "safety in my neighborhood" first (45.7%), followed by "the quality of the Cleveland public schools" (39.8%).

The response time of police and how police treat residents were next at 23.8% and 20.9%, respectively. Accessing reliable internet connection was at the bottom of the list at 2.8%.

"Public safety and education are top of mind for Cleveland voters," said Sutton. "Timely response and how residents are treated by police are persistent concerns."  

Parks and road projects popular

Respondents were also asked, "Which of the following changes in Cleveland have benefitted you, your family and/or your neighborhood?" The change selected most often was "Metroparks management and improvements to Edgewater Park and Euclid Beach" (33.3%), followed by "the street repair bond program" (28.8%).

"Redevelopment of the Ohio City, Detroit Shoreway and Tremont neighborhoods" (25.4%) was next. Bringing up the rear on this list were "renovation of Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse" (10.6%) and "Cleveland hosting the Republican National Convention in 2016" (10%).

According to Sutton, "Parks, improved housing and gathering spaces are more important to voters than the splash of costly high-profile events and upgraded entertainment venues."

Survey methodology and margin of error

The Baldwin Wallace University Community Research Institute conducted a poll of 419 Cleveland registered voters between 9/27/21 and 10/8/21, asking questions about the mayoral election taking place on November 2, 2021. The poll sample consisted of 291 (69.5%) live phone interviews and 128 (30.5%) web panel responses. The live interviews included 238 cell phone respondents (81.8%) and 53 landline phone respondents (18.2%). The live interviews were conducted by the CRI survey call center and Gravis Market Research. Gravis also conducted the web panel survey. The survey results were weighted by gender and age. The margin of error for the survey is +5.1%.

Access the complete survey instrument with weighting details.