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Polls Don't Reflect Efforts Being Made By Democrats In Texas

by: Joe Deshotel

Thu May 01, 2014 at 03:30 PM CDT

Polls continue to show Democrats trailing Republicans in the race for November's general election, but the silverlining shows Democrats have a brighter future if they can reach voters with their message -- and that is exactly what they are doing.

It is true that the long term demographic shift favors Democrats, but an increase in the relative population of our strongest constituencies won't help if we can't increase turnout numbers -- Texas also ranks behind every state and Washington D.C. for voter participation.

Texas Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa has adopted the motto, "Texas is not a Red state, it's a non voting state," and yesterday he told Democrats in Austin that we must expand our base if we are going to win. We aren't going to convert Republicans to Democrats by talking like them -- we've tried that for 25yrs -- he said, and given their harsh rhetoric this cycle that is especially true these days.

There are though, individual candidates in particular races that will be able to (and probably have to) peel off some thoughtful moderate GOP voters, as well as win a majority of Independents. A recent poll by Emerson revealed that path. It showed gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis within 7.5 points of Greg Abbott with 8.9% still undecided, and found that over 21% of Texans view themselves as Independents.

More on the path to victory below the jump...

A Public Policy Polling poll taken during April showed a wider gap for Davis but several issues were highlighted by the Lone Star Project that get to the core point -- likely voters won't win this election for Democrats. We will need to continue to register voters, expand the electorate, and turn out the base.

LSP found:

Geographic and Demographic Inaccuracy
The respondents included in many public polls don't reflect the geographic or demographic make-up of the electorate. At best, they key off of turnout from a previous cycle election but fail to accurately predict the current cycle turnout. The campaigns themselves, carefully calculate the likely make-up of the election turnout and take into account their own activities that affect turnout.

Respondents are provided too broad or too little information
Public polls questionnaires usually include simple head-to-head questions and sometimes more general questions on issues. Polls conducted by campaigns to accurately measure public attitudes ask questions that replicate the messaging of each candidate and, in effect, simulate the election underway, emphasizing both the positive and negative attributes of each candidate.

Partisanship overstated for Anglos, understated for minorities
In Texas polls, Anglo respondents often default to the GOP candidate at a higher rate than their actual vote on Election Day absent other compelling information about the particular candidate. Conversely, African Americans and Hispanic voters often respond with "undecided" on a poll but then opt for the Democratic candidate on Election Day, after being informed about both candidates.

Expanding the electorate through voter registration efforts has been made a priority this cycle by the campaigns, the Democratic Party and Battleground Texas. Their eye is on the 1.3 million Texans who voted for Barack Obama for President in 2012 but did not come out in 2010 to support Bill While in his run for Governor. That number would have been enough to put him over the top, and in 2014 if voters are reached and the case is made, it will be enough for Wendy Davis as well.

Even though PPP polls seem to use a methodology that favors the GOP's institutional advantages, positive signs can be gleaned from how these polled individuals feel about issues that go beyond partisanship. For example, over 70% of Texans believe increasing teacher pay is an effective way to improve public education. For more on that, read about how Texas Democrats are winning on the issues.

Also check out the new Polling Center by Progress Texas' sister organization the Texas Research Institute.

You can follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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