The election to find a new mayor for Tauranga is wide open after a poll revealed that 70 per cent of voters were undecided about which mayoral candidate they would choose.

A poll of 600 people was conducted by Curia Market Research last Wednesday and Thursday - before voting papers were sent out.

Curia director David Farrar said the response may indicate a lack of any big polarising issues.

The telephone survey was funded by mayoral candidate Larry Baldock who said there was nothing in the preamble to the scientific poll that linked him to the survey. His name was only mentioned when the list of 11 candidates was read out to people who needed prompting.

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Mr Farrar said 15 per cent were able to name their preferred candidate unprompted. When the names and brief backgrounder for each candidate was read out, another 15 per cent were able to name their preference.

People were then asked if they were leaning towards any particular candidate, even if they were not certain. A further 2 or 3 per cent responded to the question.

Mr Farrar said there was no clear front runner in the mayoral election. "That is why there is such a high level of undecideds."

He said that 70 per cent was a high level of undecideds, even when it was accepted that some of the people who said they were likely to vote would probably not get around to it.

The probe question of whether people were leaning towards a particular candidate normally generated an 8 to 10 per cent response, and more in parliamentary elections where there were two or three reasonably high profile candidates, he said.

"This time we got very few people saying which way they were leaning - they genuinely don't know."

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce special projects co-ordinator Anne Pankhurst said the big public turnout at the chamber's two mayoral candidates' meetings showed there was a lot of interest in knowing who the candidates were.

''Maybe the poll shows there are a lot of people still weighing up the candidates. It is a case of the public wanting to learn about the candidates so they can make an informed decision.''

Mr Baldock said the 70 per cent of undecided voters was up from the 53 per cent in Curia's July survey conducted prior to the closing date for nominations. At that point, three of the 11 candidates had not declared their intention to run for the mayoralty.

He said the poll showed that the election was wide open and he found it ''kind of bizarre'' that so few people had a stab at a name when they were asked which candidate they were leaning towards.

Mr Baldock declined to disclose the front runners in the poll because only a third of the 600 people were able to name a preferred candidate.

"It would not be a reliable sample to release for public information.''

He originally wanted to give people a chance to see who the front runners were, but he had been unable to back it up by a good poll of those who had decided. "I don't want to unfairly influence the election."

Mr Baldock said he was not near the bottom of the candidate list.

Tauranga mayoral poll September 14 & 15
- 200 respondents surveyed on landline phones in each of Tauranga's three wards
- Needed to have voted previously or said they were likely to vote.
- Sampling error plus or minus 4 per cent
- Conducted in accordance with New Zealand and international research codes of practice