Thursday, March 06, 2014

A couple of post mortem thoughts

-- Wendy Davis' perceived weakness in South Texas (it's only perceived by those who use the hashtag #tcot and read Breitbart) isn't.

As for South Texas,  there’s no contest. In the big three South Texas counties – Cameron, Hidalgo and Webb – Davis got 35,954 votes to Abbott’s 8,853. Or more than four times as many votes as the Republican attorney general. As we reported today, both candidates are already in general election mode, already making a pitch for Hispanic voters and suburban women – two important voter groups. There were few contested statewide races on the Democratic side Tuesday, but several on the GOP side to motivate Republican votes to go the polls Tuesday. Still, results in seven top South Texas counties in Tuesday’s primary finds that Davis got nearly five times more votes than Abbott.

-- Turnout was lame, but turnout is always lame in non-presidential primaries.  BGTX is playing a long game, and it's working.  More in similar vein from Ed Sills at QR.

Reynaldo “Ray” Madrigal got 20.94 percent of the vote. Also, they suggest an “excitement deficit” for Democrats, as Davis got only 432,000 votes, compared to 517,487 for gubernatorial candidate Bill White in the 2010 Democratic primary.

Turnout was light, in part because of bad weather, a lost day of early voting on Presidents Day and voter procrastination. But in larger part, turnout was light because the statewide Democratic matchups were so low on the marquee that they had to be squeezed in with tweezers. Republicans were on TV, it seemed, more than erectile dysfunction ads. Even Democrats’ attention was distracted in the fashion of spectators witnessing a car wreck.

The Democratic Party in Texas still has a mountain to climb, but neither the primary numbers nor the expectations game adds much insight in reading the November crystal ball.

Sills provides more rationale behind the paywall, but I'll leave it at this.

For Democrats looking for any evidence of “excitement,” there is this nugget: Davis’s vote total of 432,000 was just 19,000 short of the vote total for Leticia Van de Putte, who received the nomination for Lieutenant Governor with no opposition. Nearly 100,000 Democrats appear to have stopped voting after the governor’s race. Even the U.S. Senate race, above Davis on the ballot, had 40,000 fewer votes. 

In March, the Davis machine turned them out for her.  In November, they had best be turning them out for everybody on the ticket.

-- Kuff joins the chorus of critics of the Texas Tribune's pre-election poll.  He came in behind RG Ratcliffe, posting again at James Moore's Don't Grow Texas.  Bashing the TexTrib has gotten awfully popular lately, and it's approaching pile-on status.  So... since I led the way on this criticism almost five years ago, I'm going to take the initiative and back off them a little.

Yes, they did get a couple of things correct.

In their defense, they hit the fairway on several races, as well. They hit the Abbott win for governor down to the percentage, and came only a few points of hitting Cornyn-Stockman on the screws (they had it 62-16). They had a bit of a miss on the Davis primary win, forecasting a much bigger win over Ray Madrigal. But blowouts are tough to hit on the percentage to begin with, and the outsized polling margin might've hinted at an undercount of Latino voters, which was Madrigal's best demographic last night.


So, what happened? Two things can be cited as causes for the errant numbers. Neither of those factors necessarily acquit UT entirely, but do offer valuable context.

First off, the poll is actually a little bit older than one might think. It was released early last week, but it was already a week old when it was released: It was in the field from Feb. 7-17. This means that the respondents missed the late campaign efforts of the candidates, which certainly played a role in the Democratic Senate primary (where Alameel did run ads late) and may have done so in the other downballot affairs, as well.

Second, turnout sucked. Both the Republican and Democratic primaries saw turnout that, at last check, was 150,000 voters fewer than came to the polls in 2010.

As for the other pollsters being held to account: The short answer is that there weren't many others to assess. Perhaps due to the genuine lack of competitive races of interest (with due respect to Alameel or Rogers, the Democratic Senate primary is all but assumed to be a battle for who will lose by 20+ to John Cornyn in November), only two other primary polls were released. One, a December poll by a GOP pollster interested in the Senate race, was too early to "judge," but was pretty close to correct, anyway (they had Cornyn leading Stockman 50-6). The other, a Gravis poll from last month, was an air ball. They had Stockman at 28 percent, and they had Cornyn well under the runoff threshold (43 percent). Not. Even. Close.

There was no other polling conducted except the two dubious ones mentioned above, and neither of them fared any better.  Let's put the blame for that squarely on the corporate media in Texas -- the newspapers, the broadcast outlets -- which have completely relinquished this responsibility.  They are content to rake in the assloads of campaign cash spent on advertising, but not deliver any news on the races in exchange for the windfall.  Hearst, with its slew of papers large and small across Texas, and Belo, all but a monopoly in the Dallas market, are due for significant shaming in this regard.

So yes, the TexTrib should be conducting better polling.  But the media giants that used to do it, even in conjunction with one another to share the cost, have abandoned it altogether.  That's the real disgrace.

Update: Now if you want to see another bullshit poll, look at this one.  And Kuff also has some advice for the TT on how to improve their polling.


Gadfly said...

Why do you think Madrigal pulled in 20 percent? Protest against Davis' tracking right in January? Something else?

On the Snooze link at the end, the story does start off by noting Rasmussen is Republican leaning. So, the poll may be bull, but the story's reasonably straight up.

Totally agree on Hearse [sic]. You' slashed by combining what's left of Chron and E-N Capitol staff. You've got papers over the state, from Houston to Midland, if that's not been sold yet. (It's a sucky paper compared to Odessa, actually.)

PDiddie said...

Latino surname. That's all. In 2006 Maria Luisa Alvarado, a no-name, no political history candidate, won the LG nom for the Dems, beating two seasoned pols (they were Caucasian). Alvarado is on the ballot, as an indy, again this year. That's what spoils LVDP's bid, I'm sorry to say.

Rasmussen is a Republican polling outfit with too much bias to be legit (IMHO).

Hearst owns papers in Houston, San Antonio, Laredo, Midland, Beaumont, and Plainview. A big bunch of weeklies scattered around the state as well. I worked at those last three (and don't take your comment about the Reporter-Telegram being lousy personally).

Gadfly said...

I'd forgotten all about Alvarado.

I thought Hearse still owned Laredo and Beaumont, but wasn't sure. When I was in Odessa, they were talking about selling the R-T.

I don't know how the R-T was on ads, but news? They just weren't as good as we were.

Point is that they've got a biggie paper in the Valley, what should be the biggest paper in the Basin, and a presence in the Panhandle, in addition to Houston & SA. They could do more ... but it's all about profit margins.

PDiddie said...

The Plainview Daily Herald -- M-F afternoons and Sunday morning, so "daily" was tongue-in-cheek -- operated at a 30% profit margin on $2 million annual revenue between 1986-1989. They budgeted 33. I know this because I prepared those budgets.

Hearst acquired the BE in 1986 (where I was before I got to Plainview) from Jefferson Pilot, and during that process I overheard the head of J-P brag to the Hearst bigwig that the paper was operating at a 40% profit margin.

All the newspaper companies, not just Hearst (though they were best positioned as a diversified media concern and privately owned) chose not to invest those piles of cash into anything like R&D or new technology until it was far, far too late. Over a beer or three sometime I'll tell you the story about how I warned the bosses in the late '80s that the apocalypse was coming. And when it finally did hit, after I left the business, they were all retiring before it hit them too bad.

Meh. The Internet ravaged lots of industries that were too slow to change.