Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Conflicting Texas Senate Polls

In Polling, Senate on May 11, 2012 at 12:30 pm

A Super PAC supporting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s (R) US Senate bid has released its own polling data to counter Public Policy Polling’s latest survey that showed the Texas GOP battle tightening.

According to the Dresner Wickers Barber Sanders polling firm, conducting a survey for the Conservative Republicans for Texas organization, Dewhurst enjoys a 51-16-7-2 percent advantage over former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz, Dallas ex-mayor Tom Leppert, and college football ESPN analyst Craig James, respectively. The poll was taken over the April 27-30 period of 400 likely Texas Republican primary voters.

The Public Policy Polling data, as previously released and reported, showed the same candidate order but in a much different numbering sequence. According to their 400-person study (also of likely Texas Republican primary voters) taken a little over a week before, April 19-22, Dewhurst had only a 38-26 percent lead over Cruz with Leppert scoring 8 percent and James 7 percent.

Both polls were taken over a weekend period, though the PPP survey completed more calls during weekdays. Polling results tend to differ when asked of people on a weekend versus during the work week because a different pool of respondents are typically available. Additionally, the Dresner poll was taken after Dewhurst ran some pointed negative ads against his opponent, Cruz, who is seemingly gaining the strongest foothold against the lieutenant governor.

The difference in the two polls suggest a net 23 point swing in Dewhurst’s favor. This is seemingly too large a movement in too short a time with too little action to support such a turn.

Public Policy Polling, known as a Democratic firm but one that now releases regular independent polls from around the country, represents no particular candidate in the Texas Senate race. The Conservative Republicans for Texas back Dewhurst, which leads to questions about methodology and further asks at what point did the questions appear in the interview schedule. In other words, and this is something that we do not know from the available information, were these figures derived from the answers to push questions? If so, then the results should be discounted.

The key question is not whether Dewhurst finishes in first place, because he very likely will. The point the polling cannot definitively determine is whether he can win the nomination outright on May 29, or whether Cruz forces him into a July 31 run-off election. Dewhurst likely will not fare well in a run-off, since the most well-known candidate being forced to a second election – by definition because a majority of the people chose someone else – often leads to defeat. It is this type of an invariably low turnout run-off scenario that scares the Dewhurst people.

Watch Dewhurst make a major outright victory push between now and May 29th, which, if successful, will clinch the Republican nomination. In all practicality, because the Democrats appear weak in the general election, such a victory would also secure the Senate seat itself.

In terms of resolving the conflict between the Public Policy Polling and Dresner surveys, it is more likely that the PPP data comes closer to accurately depicting the actual campaign picture than does the Dewhurst Super PAC prognostication. Their methodological consistency and reliability appears to be superior.

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