Monday, November 09, 2009

Responses from Evan Smith and Miya Shay

I posted about the Texas Tribune's wacky poll last week, and had a conversation with Tribune CEO Evan Smith yesterday afternoon prompted by it.

First, a correction: Farouk Shami was not included in their list of Democratic gubernatorial candidates, as I wrote. The candidates they DID poll included Kinky Friedman, Tom Schieffer, Felix Alvarado, Mark Thompson (who withdrew from the race and endorsed Hank Gilbert as the poll was concluding) and Ronnie Earle, who has still not declared for it.

Smith indicated to me that he retains confidence in the polling outfit, in fact that they will do additional polling for the Tribune in 2010. He also trusts the methodology of polling via internet, as compared for example to polling via telephone. He was quick to say that he did not trust it more, just that it was worthy of his trust. Here is an excerpt containing the Trib's explanation:

There is a lot of interest in our use of the internet for polling. There is a deep discussion of our method in the attached methodology section, and similar discussions for all the polls in the polling section at the Texas Politics website. For those who want to dig still deeper into the underlying statistical methods, the founder of the polling firm we use, Doug Rivers, has been a central figure in developing the matched random sampling methods for use over the internet, and weighed in on some of the issues being discussed in this post at in September. If you’re interested, you can trace the discussion backward and forward from this post, and get a detailed explanation of why the matched random sampling method is different from opt-in polls.

Smith also said, without my having to ask, that leaving Gilbert off the poll was "a f***up". He's certainly right about that.

And he is still confident in the poll's results, despite having instructed the pollsters to go back and re-poll the 266 respondents who indicated they would 'definitely' or 'probably' be voting in the Democratic primary to ask them if they would vote for Gilbert.

I am not. There is no alternate reality in which Mark Thompson could have gotten ten times the number of supporters than Gilbert did. At best, the poll's result had been compromised by the omission-and-then-late-addition of Gilbert's name. As well, including Farouk Shami as a polling option would have been as reasonable as including Ronnie Earle. With all of those errors and omissions, and especially since Thompson has now withdrawn (he was reported to be considering it even as the poll was concluding), I find the Democratic portion of the Texas Tribune's poll to be simply invalid.

My last question for Smith was relative to Rick Perry's twelve-point lead over Kay Bailey, and I offered a premise (which Smith did not necessarily agree with): could his poll's higher numbers for the governor possibly reflect a coalescing of the conservative base specifically in reaction to October's news surrounding the Todd Willingham case? Smith would not grant that but did note that Perry is very probably stronger with the prototypical GOP primary voter. I agree with that much.

The Trib won't conduct another poll until after the first of the year, according to Smith, so my humble O is that we will have to look elsewhere for some indications about how the governor's race is shaping up.

And Miya Shay posted the following to me at my Facebook wall in response to this post:

Hey Perry, I read your blog about my blog..Thanks for commenting! I just wanted you to know that i wasn't impressed or complimenting Kaufman. If you read the blog, I was simply stating a fact that her tactic may be effective. It doesn't mean I support it or oppose it.. I am just being realistic. thanks

Sorry, Miya. That won't wash.

Not too long ago (perhaps before you were born, I don't know) the media's role was that of watchdog for the public against the powerful. The media won Pulitzers for that work when they did it relentlessly and well. When elected officials breach their public trust and attempt to corrupt the process -- in fact the free choice -- of the voters then it is, or used to be, the media's job to call them out about it. Not simply observe it, and certainly not to marvel at it.

Maybe some other member of the local media will choose that role, since you appear unwilling to take it on.

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