Texas Observer poll to show D primary turnout was 2/3 new voters
Thu May 29, 2008 1:19 am

I returned from a day in Houston to find a release from the Texas Observer that touted a press conference that is scheduled for Thursday:

The Texas Observer will release the results of its first-ever Texas Observer Poll at a news conference at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 29, 2008, in the Speaker’s Committee Room of the State Capitol.

The poll surveyed 2,500 voters, half of whom never participated in a primary until 2008. The other half participated in previous Republican primaries, but this year voted in the Democratic primary. Results of the survey are in the next (May 30) edition of The Texas Observer.

I have heard some talk about the findings of the poll, which was basically an effort to determine the makeup of the voters who turned out in such overwhelming numbers on March 4. Here’s my understanding of what the poll is going to show:

* 66% of the Democratic primary voters either had NO history of voting in previous Democratic primaries (going back to 2002) or had previously voted in at least one Republican primary.

* The breakdown of these two groups was:
–No Democratic primary history 55%
–Republican primary history 10.8%

* 9.4% of the Democratic primary voters indicated their intention to vote for John McCain for president.

* The dropoff after the presidential race was extreme. Downballot races received very little attention from these voters.

These numbers have caused me to reevaluate the significance of the Democrats’ two-to-one advantage over Republicans in primary participation. If these voters had had a history of of voting in the Democratic primary, it would be reasonable to conclude that they were loyal Democrats. But 2/3 of the voters in the Democratic primary did not meet this description.

The voting pattern–a huge spike in turnout combined with little interest in downballot races–indicates that the presidential race was the main motivating factor for 2 out of 3 Democratic voters. No surprise there. The question is, Can the D’s reap the benefit of this huge turnout in the U.S. Senate race and in local races for courthouse positions and for legislative and congressional races? Two-thirds of the primary voters showed little interest in these races. The problem for Democrats is twofold: First, can they raise the money to educate these voters about the downballot races? and, second, can the enthusiasm that new voters exhibited on March 4 be sustained over the eight months between the primary and the general election?

I suppose that a different spin could be applied to these numbers, but my reading is that the poll is bad news for Democrats.

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