The poll today from Hill Research Consultants casts the governor’s race in a new light. It shows Perry with a one point lead, 42-41. The poll is somewhat eccentric since the ballot test is secondary to the main thrust of the poll, which is to examine Texans’ attitude on insurance reform issues and how they might affect the governor’s race. The Hill firm did a previous poll on the subject of insurance reform before the 2009 legislative session. The poll showed that Texans’ favored such reforms as an elected insurance commissioner. The ballot test involved a sample of 600 voters (no indication that they are “registered” or “likely” voters) statewide, based on interviews conducted August 25-29. The margin of error is +/- 4%. The crosstabs include: Right direction vs. Wrong track Right direction 36% Wrong track 50% Unsure/refuse 14% Democrats 56% wrong track Independents 52% wrong track Republicans 50% wrong track Tea Party Stance –1 in 10 respondents identify as members of the Tea Party. –1/3 are at least friendly and sympathetic, while just 16% are hostile towards or oppose the movement’s goals –48% don’t care or are uncertain of their stance toward the Tea Party agenda Gubernatorial ballot test (Based upon what you know right now, if the election for Governor of Texas was held today, and you had to make a choice, would you be voting for Republican Rick Perry or Democrat Bill White?) Perry 42% White 41% Unsure 14% Neither/refuse 3% Gender/Age & Geography Men 18-49 Perry 42%, White 41% Women 18-49 Perry 42%, White 43% Men 50+ Perry 49%, White 33% Women 50+ Perry 36%, White 44% That “Men 50+” category is the geezer vote. That’s where Perry is strongest. Partisanship Republicans: Perry 74%, White 15% Independents: Perry 37%, White 33% Democrats: Perry 11%, White 79% [Readers should note that most voters who identify themselves as independent end up voting Republican.] Regional breakouts Gulf Coast: Perry 43%, White 46% Central Corridor: Perry 38%, White 47% Metroplex: Perry 42%, White 40% Other (rural): Perry 43%, White 30% Regional breakouts Gulf Coast: Perry 43%, White 46% Central Corridor: Perry 38%, White 47% Metroplex: Perry 42%, White 40% Other (rural): Perry 43%, White 30% What is interesting here is that most of Perry’s advantage comes from rural Texas. He trails in the Gulf Coast, he trails in Central Texas, he has a narrow lead in the Metroplex. It is rural Texas that puts him in front. Finally, I want to include two observations from a Republican source about this poll. Readers may judge the validity of the observations for themselves: (1) Hill has a breakout of 37% R and 33% D. That is a little thin. R advantage in Texas this year is +8. (2) Also, the poll shows 43% of respondents say they are conservative. That number is more like 60%. * * * * On insurance issues, support for the tested reforms is overwhelming. Here are two examples: * Direct election of the insurance commissioner. Approve: 84% Disapprove: 11% Unsure: 5% * Require insurance companies to receive prior approval (by the appointed insurance commissioner) of proposed rates before they can take effect. Approve: 73% Disapprove: 17% Unsure: 10% The client for Hill Research was Texas Watch Foundation. Some Republicans believe that Texas Watch is affiliated with trial lawyers. Readers may recall that White recently proposed several insurance reforms, including “prior approval.” An insurance specialist at the Wharton School debunked whether prior approval would make any difference. I believe that prior approval would make a difference. Under the current “file and use” rules, companies can file rates and start collecting premium income immediately. Under “prior approval,” the insurance commissioner would first determine whether the rates are fair and reasonable. Only if he answered in the affirmative would the rates be allowed to take effect. Under “file and use,” rates would take effect immediately. Consumers could challenge the rates, but the process would end up in court. Companies could rake in the money during the time the case was being tried. Only if the rates were determined to be too high would consumers be able to get refunds, and only then after companies had been raking in the profits from the excessive rates. The consumers lose the float. It doesn’t take a genius to see which method is more consumer-friendly. I don’t think it is a coincidence that this poll was released just as the campaign is going to heat up.