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Oliver Fletcher holds up a LaToya Cantrell sign in Central City before mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell's announces her blueprint 2018 address at the New Orleans Jazz Market in New Orleans, Tuesday, July 18, 2017. ORG XMIT: BAT1707182003135072

Advocate Staff photo by SOPHIA GERMER

The top three candidates in the New Orleans mayor’s race are in a statistical dead heat, according to an independent poll released this week.

Former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet are all within a few points of one another, according the poll conducted Sept. 5 through 7 by Market Research Insight.

Cantrell leads the poll with 27 percent, followed closely by Bagneris with 26 percent and Charbonnet with 25 percent.

Those results are a major bump for Bagneris, who had garnered only 17 percent of the vote in a July survey by MRI.

Businessman Troy Henry, the only other candidate named in the poll, was in a distant fourth place with support from 4 percent of those surveyed, though the poll was conducted before a PAC supporting him began an ad campaign last week. The poll shows 18 percent of voters are undecided.

The poll's questionnaire strongly attempted to get those surveyed to pick a candidate, asking voters who initially said they were undecided "which candidate would it be if you just had to say."

In a run-off, the poll shows another close race between Cantrell and Charbonnet, with Cantrell receiving 41 percent of the vote and Charbonnet just a point behind. That’s a significant shift from July, which had Charbonnet trouncing Cantrell 44 percent to 33 percent in a run-off.

Cantrell would have a 44-38 lead over Bagneris in a run-off and Charbonnet would beat Bagneris 50-26 in a head-to-head match-up, according to the poll.

The results suggest that Bagneris and Charbonnet may be drawing from similar pools of supporters, said Verne Kennedy, president of MRI.

Among black voters, Cantrell leads with 29 percent, followed by Bagneris with 28 percent, Charbonnet with 22 percent and Henry with 3 percent. White voters gave Charbonnet the edge with 28 percent, followed by Cantrell with 25 percent and Bagneris with 23 percent.

There were also significant differences in the support for Charbonnet and Cantrell based on gender. About 29 percent of men and 21 percent of women support Charbonnet while about 21 percent of men and 33 percent of women support Cantrell. Bagneris got 26 percent support from both genders.

While the poll predicts a close mayoral race, it found there’s far less competition for the two at-large City Council seats.

State Rep. Helena Moreno is far in the lead in her bid for a council at-large seat, with 49 percent of the vote, according to the poll. State Rep. Joe Bouie has 8 percent of the vote and Kenneth Cutno has 3 percent of the vote.

Councilman Jason Williams leads in his bid for re-election with 35 percent of the vote, followed by Jason Coleman with 8 percent, David Gregory Nowak with 6 percent and Aaron “Ace” Christopher with 5 percent. About 47 percent of voters are undecided in the race, according to the poll

Outside of the election, the poll found 54 percent of those surveyed blamed the Sewerage & Water Board for the Aug. 5 flood and 37 percent blamed Mayor Mitch Landrieu. About 3 percent blamed corruption and 1 percent blamed environmental issues in response to the question, which allowed voters to voice their own opinion rather than choosing from a list of options.

The poll surveyed 400 voters who said they “definitely” or “probably” would be voting in the election and had voted in at least two of the last three major elections. The survey has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.

The poll was paid for by a group of business people who regularly conduct polls on Louisiana and New Orleans politics. John Georges, the owner of The New Orleans Advocate, is a member of that group.

A poll of the race conducted by Charbonnet's campaign shows a more favorable view for her. In that poll, 20 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Charbonnet, 15 picked Cantrell and 10 percent chose Bagneris. About 41 percent of those surveyed said they were undecided.

When those undecided voters were asked who they leaned toward - as in the MRI poll - Charbonnet has support from 27 percent of the voters, Cantrell has 17 percent support and Bagneris has 14 percent 

The poll, conducted by BDPC on Sept. 9, surveyed 610 chronic voters and has a margin of error of about 4.1 percent.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.​