Perry’s lead is 42-30. The UT/Tribune poll surveyed 800 registered voters between October 20 and October 27, of whom 45% said that they “definitely” or “probably” would vote in the Republican primary. The Democratic number for the same question was 30%. This seems on the mark to me. You’ll have to take my word for it, but if this had been roulette, I would have put my chips on 12. Keep in mind, however, that this is a small sample, 359 self-described GOP primary voters taken from a medium sample, with a MOE greater than 5%. The raw numbers, according to the Texas Poll’s Jim Henson, whom I interviewed, were 146 for Perry, 107 for Hutchison, 25 for Medina, and the rest were the catch-alls of don’t knows and not sures. The larger sample of 800 was used for R vs. D questions. The results underscore how abysmal Hutchison’s campaign has been. Her handling of her resignation, or non-resignation, from the Senate has made her look weak and indecisive. She comes across as lacking self-confidence. And lacking ideas. To make matters worse, she is down by 12 after a six-week stretch during which Perry was hammered by the media, a time during which she had a chance to gain ground. She continues to pursue a strategy of single-shot criticisms of Perry without giving any definition to her own candidacy. She is now at the same level in the polls that Perry was at the beginning of the race. The problem here is not the campaign. It’s the candidate. Perry’s numbers aren’t great. The number that stands out is his -8 job approval versus Hutchison’s +12 after he has spent a year hammering her on being the candidate of Washington since the April round of tea parties. But these numbers reflect the larger sample of 800, not just Republican primary voters. So his negative job approval rating includes the opinions of Democrats as well as non-primary voting Republicans. The same is true of his 1 point lead over a generic Democrat. He might have trouble in a general election against a strong Democrat, but (1) no such person exists and (2) Texas is so hostile to Obama that I think the general election climate will heavily favor the Rs. The D’s had four years to get ready for this election, and they are going to blow it totally. Can Hutchison recover from this latest slump? Well, sure, she can. But I have seen nothing to indicate that she will. She has not exhibited the self-confidence and the coolness under fire to make good decisions. Here are the results of specific questions: Job Approval Obama 41% approve, 52% disapprove Perry 36% approve, 44% disapprove Hutchison 39% approve, 27% disapprove Congress 14% approve, 71% disapprove Texas Legislature 31% approve, 36% disapprove She ought to be able to make something out of that differential, but she hasn’t. Other Races Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst 26% Abbott 16% (Doesn’t augur well for Abbott mounting a primary challenge to Dewhurst) Generic Congress Republican 42% Democrat 33% Generic Legislature Republican 39% Democratic 33% Democratic Governor (I suppose I have to report this, as if it had some meaning) Kinky 19% Schieffer 10% “Don’t Know” 55% Governor (General Election) Perry 34% Generic Democrat 33% Hutchison 36%% Generic Democrat 25% Matched specifically against Tom Schieffer: Perry 36% Schieffer 25% Hutchison 40% Schieffer 20% United States Senate (Imaginary) Bill White 13% John Sharp 13% No Republican polls higher than 3% (Shapiro and Michael Williams) Partisanship of sample Democrat 32% (Strong Democrat 20%) Republican 32% (Strong Republican 20%) Independent 31% This seems too favorable to Democrats given the unpopularity of Obama and the general turmoil in the country. I would guess that Republicans have an edge in the 3-4 points range, especially considering earlier findings by this poll that independents in Texas tend to tilt Republican. I want to say a couple of things about the UT/Tribune poll. The first is that we are lucky to have it. Polls cost money, and without this poll, we would have to rely on the hard-pressed daily newspapers to know where the race stands, or Rasmussen’s occasional reports on the governor’s race. The second is that I continue to be skeptical about the poll’s methodology. The gold standard for polling primary elections is to acquire the list of people who actually voted in a party primary in previous elections and limit the sample to these names. In this way you have a “pure” sample of likely primary voters. Anything short of this, such as asking voters whether they intend to vote in a primary election, is of questionable value. Here is the UT Poll’s explanation of its methodology, unfiltered: The October 2009 Texas Statewide Study was designed by researchers in the UT-Austin Department of Government and conducted by YouGov/Polimetrix, a firm with demonstrated success in internet polling. YouGov/Polimetrix accomplishes internet polling through a unique sampling procedure known as “matched random sampling.” The firm begins with two lists: (1) a list of all adult “consumers” in Texas (covering approximately 95 percent of the adult population), and (2) a list of people who have agreed to take YouGov/Polimetrix’s surveys. For each list, Polimetrix has an extensive set of demographics. The sampling procedure then progresses in two stages. First, a random sample of consumers is drawn. For each person drawn from this sample a list of key demographics is recorded. In essence, each individual drawn is represented as a cluster of demographic characteristics, including age, income, education, race, gender, longitude and latitude, etc. Second, YouGov/Polimetrix uses a matching algorithm to find the PollingPoint panelist who is the closest match to the person drawn off the consumer file. In this way an entire “matched” random sample is constructed for all people in the “drawn” sample. Consider the all-adults file to be List A, and the volunteer sample to be List B. (I’m signed up for List B.) The firm chooses a random sample of 800 names from List A, tries to find the best demographic matches from List B, and contacts the people from List B via the Internet. I will tell you up front that I do not know enough about statistics to know whether this method is reliable or not. I do know enough to know that this methodology is not truly random, because everybody who signed up has manifested enough interest in politics to want to be surveyed. This brings us to the second question the UT pollsters ask of the poll’s participants (after ascertaining whether the participant is registered to vote): Would you say that you are extremely interested in politics and public affairs, somewhat interested, not very interested, or not at all interested? Here were the results: 54% Extremely interested 36% Somewhat interested 7% Not very interested 2% Not at all interested 0% Don’t know So you have a sample of 800 people, 90% of whom are somewhat to extremely interested in politics. Short of collecting names in the vestibule of the Austin Club during fundraising season, you can’t find a random collection of 800 people, 90% of whom are pretty interested in politics. That’s my problem with the UT Poll. Internet polling is probably the future of polling, and the UT/Tribune poll is our best hope for a regular flow of campaign information, so I’m going to have to get used to it. But my confidence level is not very high.
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