January 23, 2006
Keir Murray responds to DeLay poll criticism

Keir Murray responds to criticism of the recent survey of CD22, expanding on what the Chronicle's James Campbell wrote on Sunday. Check it out.

DeLayVsWorld still has some issues with the survey. One point he raises that I don't think has been fully addressed:

28% of district voters voted straight ticket Republican in 2004. Those who study voting know that voting is a habit, and voting habits are very difficult to break. Thus, the Chronicle's reported poll result of 22% for DeLay would indicate that one in four straight ticket Republican voters won't vote straight ticket this election cycle, and that no one else would vote for DeLay. While I suppose that there are some scenarios that this could happen, they all involve DeLay being in jail.

In other words, this part of the poll doesn't reflect real-world realities. Good pollsters think long and hard about these issues before they put a poll into the field, because when a poll does not reflect real-world realities, then the poll is worthless.

I want to throw a few data points out for this discussion. There were 272,000 votes cast in CD22 in 2004. Seventy-four thousand people cast straight-ticket Republican ballots, meaning that if those were the only votes Tom DeLay got, he'd have collected 28% of the total.

There were five contested races that appeared on every ballot in CD22 along with DeLay's: the Presidential election, the three statewides, and Justice, 1st Court of Appeals District, Place 4, which covers a 14-county area that includes Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, and Harris. Tom DeLay picked up 150,000 votes. Railroad Commissioner Victor Carillo had the next lowest total among the other Republican candidates, with 159,000. As such, this means that some 9000 people in CD22 voted for each of these Republicans, but not for Tom DeLay.

Note that in 2002, even though DeLay underperformed in the district as a whole compared to his fellow Republicans, he was not the low man on the totem pole. He got more votes than Jerry Patterson, David Dewhurst, and Steven Wayne Smith. There probably were some people who voted for all other Republicans except for DeLay, but based on numeric totals alone, you can't affirmatively conclude that.

So the question then becomes "How many straight-ticket Republican voters overrode their choice in the CD22 race?" And the answer is...I have no idea. I'm not sure there's any way to tell, or at least I'm not sure if the relevant data is publicly available. It could well be that all or almost all of the straight-ticket voters left their selections unaltered, and that the dip in DeLay's total comes exclusively or almost so from the people who made individual choices. If, however, we assume for the sake of argument that all 9000 Republican-but-not-DeLay voters were of the straight ticket variety, meaning they pushed the straight-ticket button then went to the CD22 race and chose someone other than DeLay to override the selection in that race, then he tallied about 65,000 votes from these people. That's a hair under 25% of the total vote. By DVsW's calculation, if the CD22 survey in question is accurate, that could mean that as few as one in eight of DeLay's hardcore supporters would have changed their minds.

Now of course, I have no way of knowing whether the number of fickle straight-ticket Republican voters in CD22 is closer to 1000 or 8000. The number crunching above is strictly a hypothetical construct. There is a point to this, though, and that point is that DeLay's fortunes in CD22 are not just tied to his trading more Republican turf for areas that are less so in the 2003 redistricting, but also due to fewer Republican voters pushing the button for him in 2004. I think we all agree that for DeLay to lose in 2006, that set of non-DeLay-voting Republicans will have to increase further. We can still disagree as to whether or not this survey gives evidence of that occurring. I think it'll take more polling of the district before any firm conclusions can be made; even if there was no dispute over the methodology here, any single poll is just one data point. You can't infer a trend from one point. Whatever the case, I find the discussion has been pretty enlightening. Hope you have, too.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 23, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

Edd Hendee read an email on-air, that he stated came from Dr. Murray. In it, Dr. Murray stated that the poll questions were not his, and that he was out of town when the poll was conducted.

Sounds like Dr. Murray is trying to distance himself from a poll he signed off on.

Posted by: Tom Bazan on January 23, 2006 2:09 PM

This business about straight ticket voters is rather easily explained -- it's that plurality of folks surveyed who either said "none" or refused to answer who they would vote for in the CD 22 race -- 38% of all those sampled. Presumably, a fair number of folks in these categories will ultimately decide to vote straight ticket Republican, or separately for Tom DeLay in the election.

The survey hardly shows Nick Lampson running away with the race -- he garners a whopping 30%. This only underlines the central finding of the poll -- that Tom DeLay's support has significantly eroded, and most of those folks have gone into the UNDECIDED category, which tells me they have decided to wait and see what happens over the course of the year before making up their minds. Hardly a wildly liberal conspiracy.

And while we're at it, this survey does NOT undersample Republicans. They hold a 15% lead in party self-identification -- 42% to 27%. Many people who vote either Republican or Democrat do not self-identify themselves with any political party. There are a large and growing number of independents, many of them conservative, who typically vote Republican but do not consider themselves partisan. In Texas, the voter group that is growing in numbers is not Republicans or Democrats, it's independents.

Posted by: km on January 23, 2006 2:53 PM

Is there a valid poll in the works that includes the new Republican candidate from Sugar Land, attorney Tom Campbell? He is a GREAT alternative for those of us who would not vote for DeLay even if he were the only candidate on the ballot...which was my situation in 2004. Thank goodness I don't have to face that again.

Posted by: Annette Olsen on January 23, 2006 3:23 PM

There were five contested races that appeared on every ballot in CD22 along with DeLay's.... Tom DeLay picked up 150,000 votes. Railroad Commissioner Victor Carillo had the next lowest total among the other Republican candidates, with 159,000. As such, this means that some 9000 people in CD22 voted for each of these Republicans, but not for Tom DeLay.

Careful; the only conclusion you can draw from the above is that at least 9000 people voted for Carillo but not DeLay. There's no guarantee that each and every one of those 9000 voted for every other Republican on the ballot. Realistically, most probably did, but probably not all. A few Hispanics may have voted Democratic except for Carillo, for example.

Posted by: Mathwiz on January 23, 2006 3:28 PM

Mathwiz - Yes, that's possible, but it seems unlikely for more than a trivial number of people. And for what it's worth, Carillo also had a Libertarian candidate on the ballot with him, and that Libertarian candidate was also a Hispanic (Anthony Garcia). His vote total in CD22 would likely have been closer to Mike Keasler's (160,000) or Scott Brister's (165,000) otherwise.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on January 23, 2006 3:35 PM