SAN JOSE -- With just 1½ weeks until the June primary, a poll on the San Jose mayor's race suggests that two contenders -- Dave Cortese and Sam Liccardo -- could be headed to a runoff in the November election.
But there is one big caveat: The pollsters acknowledged the survey was conducted only in English.
That would potentially leave out a large part of the base of support for another major contender, Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, who is supported by the city's large Vietnamese-speaking community.
The poll by SurveyUSA, commissioned by KPIX-TV, is the first survey on the mayor's race not paid for by a candidate or one of their supporters, making the findings especially intriguing.
Many of the respondents had already cast their mail ballots for the June 3 primary and the others were determined to be likely voters.
With no candidate expected to win majority support in the primary, the top two vote-getters would compete in the November election to replace termed-out Mayor Chuck Reed.
Leading the results with 26 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him was Cortese, a county supervisor who has been the presumed favorite, even in competitors' internal polls.
Cortese differs from the other four candidates on several key issues -- such as pension reform and strategies to increase police staffing -- and is the one candidate not on the current City Council.
"Clearly the momentum is on our side," Cortese said.
Liccardo was second with 20 percent of the respondents favoring him. The city councilman has raised by far the most money of the candidates.
Nguyen was third, getting 11 percent of the vote. Asian respondents made up nearly one-third of the poll, almost equal to the city's overall Asian population. Yet, Nguyen scored support from only 17 percent of Asian respondents, even though the vast majority of fundraising from the Asian community has flowed into Nguyen's campaign.
Rounding out the poll were council members Pierluigi Oliverio, at 8 percent, and Rose Herrera, at 7 percent. Another 22 percent were undecided. An additional 7 percent divided their support among minor candidates Bill Chew, Timothy Harrison and Michael Alvarado.
It's impossible to know how many potential respondents who spoke only Vietnamese, or some other language, hung up the phone when receiving a call from the pollsters, who used only English-speaking recorded voices during the survey. In all, members of about half of San Jose households speak a non-English language, according to census data.
"It's almost insulting that somebody (would) conduct a poll and they don't include non-English speaking voters," Nguyen said. "We know there is going to be a huge turnout among the ethnic community."
She also noted SurveyUSA has been wrong before. The last time there was an open mayoral seat, in 2006, the pollsters had Reed, the eventual winner, in fourth place a week before the election.
The latest results show Cortese winning a disproportionate support from women and Democrats. Liccardo had the most favorable responses among Republicans and respondents without a party preference.
In all, 461 likely voters participated in the survey from May 15 to May 21. The margin of error is 4.7 percent.
Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at Twitter.com/rosenbergmerc.
County supervisor Dave Cortese: 26 percent
Councilman Sam Liccardo: 20 percent
Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen: 11 percent
Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio: 8 percent
Councilwoman Rose Herrera: 7 percent
Others: 7 percent total
Undecided: 22 percent
Source: SurveyUSA poll, commissioned by KPIX-TV, conducted May 15 through May 21, using only English-speaking recorded voices. A total of 461 likely voters were included. Margin of error is 4.7 percent.