Polling followup – Is there a basis for comparison?

Following up on all of the bloggage about that Zogby Interactive poll, the Chris Bell folks did a little research into other attempts to quantify Texas gubernatorial races a year or more out from the election. Here’s what they found (see it also at BOR or in table form at Greg‘s place): In the last three campaigns, the level of support indicated for the incumbent, even at this early juncture, matched up pretty closely with the final result.

Now those were all done by different outfits, and there certainly is room to carp about Zogby’s methodology and/or track record. But let’s keep two thing in mind: One is that five years and countless special sessions into office, there probably aren’t many likely voters who don’t have an opinion about Rick Perry. He’s a known quantity. Generally speaking, incumbents ultimately don’t do very well among the undecided; usually, that’s code for “I’m not too happy about voting for this guy, but I want to know more about my alternatives before I commit myself.” Which is why lesser-known challengers start out in a hole against even unpopular incumbents.

Secondly, whatever the merits or lack of same may be regarding Zogby Interactive, their finding that 40% of the voters would cast a ballot for Rick Perry while 45% would push the button for someone else tracks pretty darned closely with his approval ratings for the past several months – if anything, the Zogby numbers compare favorably for Perry, given his three-month run of 50%+ disapproval. (He’s gotten his Katrina bounce, by the way – he’s all the way up to a magisterial 49%, against 45% disapproval. Check the crosstabs and see if you find anything that’s unlikely to be still true thirteen months from now.) Given that, the Zogby result should not be a surprise.

Which brings us back to the question of Kinky Friedman’s level of support. Without seeing a straight up Perry/Bell poll, any conjecture about where Friedman’s support is coming from is just guesswork. I can’t say right now whether Kinky is hurting one candidate more than the other or not, or if he’s just a recognizable name that otherwise-undecided people have latched onto so as not to be an “I don’t know” answer. Heck, I can’t even say what his level of name ID really is. I still believe that in the end, Friedman will take more support from Perry than from Bell. I just wish I had a better idea now of how much that might be.

(That’s still assuming that he gets on the ballot, of course. Here’s another question for Kinky supporters: Don’t you think it would have made sense for him to have supported Ralph Nader’s lawsuit in 2004 to overturn Texas’ ballot access laws? For a guy who was already talking about running long before Nader filed his suit, that strikes me as poor strategic planning.)

Anyway, bottom line is that the more I think about this particular poll, the more I think it’s at least within shouting distance of reality. I still want to see more, but this is a decent enough starting point.

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