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Chron polls Governor’s race

Here’s the first of three promised Chron polls, this one for the Governor’s race.

Perry leads a five-person field with 38 percent support, according to the survey. Democrat Chris Bell has 22 percent support, and independent Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn has 21 percent – a statistical tie. Independent Kinky Friedman trails badly at 10.5 percent, and Libertarian James Werner has just 1 percent support.

Disapproval of Perry’s job performance is almost universal across Texas’ demographic groups, according to the survey. Perry still has solid support from conservatives and Republicans.

“Could this have been a competitive two-person race? Absolutely. But it was never a competitive two-person race,” said pollster John Zogby. “You get back to that one point: Bell and Strayhorn are blocking one another.”

Bell – despite a saturation television-advertising buy paid for by $2.5 million in donations and loans from Houston trial lawyer John O’Quinn – remains largely unknown to four of every 10 voters. And Bell has yet to consolidate even his own Democratic base.

Strayhorn shows strength among women, blacks and self-identified independents, but she has failed to make significant inroads with Democrats or Republicans.


“The difficulty here is Perry has solidified in the high 30s,” Zogby said of the challengers. “It would take two candidates to implode, and the odds of that happening are very, very nil.”

The Zogby International telephone survey of 1,003 likely voters was conducted between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25. The margin of error in the survey is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points. The sample was 63 percent white, 23 percent Hispanic, 12 percent black and 2 percent other.

Perry spokesman Robert Black said the survey did not reflect a large Republican turnout that the campaign is expecting.

“The governor believes that the Texas voters are going to prove the national pundits wrong. They’re going to turn out, and they’re going to re-elect him by an overwhelming margin,” Black said. “This poll confirms that those two campaigns (Bell and Strayhorn) are getting awfully close to throwing in the towel.”


Perry’s greatest weakness is that 54 percent of those surveyed said his performance as governor has been fair or poor. Among independent voters, 62 percent disapproved of Perry as governor.

Of those who say Perry has done only a fair job as governor, a third are supporting Strayhorn and a quarter are voting for Bell. Among those who say Perry has done a poor job, 45 percent are for Bell and 30 percent back Strayhorn.

Slightly more than half of those surveyed said Texas is headed in the right direction, but 40 percent said the state is off track. Out of wrong-track voters, Zogby noted, 39 percent favor Bell; 23 percent Strayhorn; and 15 percent Friedman.


Bell holds 53 percent of support among Democrats, but 18 percent say they will vote for Strayhorn and 10 percent for Friedman. And 29 percent of the Democrats surveyed said they are too unfamiliar with Bell to have an opinion about him.

“There’s no way a Democrat can win getting just 53 percent of the Democrats, and that’s where Bell is,” Zogby said.

And the two ethnic groups that usually provide strength to Democratic candidates are divided. Blacks typically vote almost exclusively Democratic, but this year 43 percent say they support Bell and 35 percent name Strayhorn.

Hispanics typically throw three-quarters of their vote to Democrats, but only 25 percent said they will vote for Bell. Perry has the strongest showing among Hispanic voters, netting 37 percent.

My comments:

– This poll stands in contrast to three others released recently (SurveyUSA, Rasmussen, and Zogby’s own WSJ/Interactive) that all have Bell at 25 or 26, and Perry at 36 or 37. I have an easier time believing Perry at 38 than I do Bell at 22 at this point.

– Similarly, whatever this poll says, I don’t believe that Bell will only collect half of the self-identified Democratic vote. Until proven otherwise, about half the Democratic vote will be straight ticket. I expect Bell’s share will ultimately be in the 75-80% range.

– I note with interest Robert Black’s statement about Republican turnout. Maybe he’s right and Texas will defy national trends, I don’t know. But I do know that we can do better than guess at this point. We’ve got at least five days of early voting data available, and we can tell which precincts are turning out relative to others. That’s a question the Chron could have investigated.

– On a related note, early voting turnout itself may be up relative to 2002 around the state, but I don’t think that’s necessarily indicative of an overall boost in turnout. I think more people are voting early these days – in Harris County at least, more people voted early in 2004 than in 2000, and more voted early in 2002 than 1998. I’m not confident of any formulae to project overall turnout from early voting.

– Finally, even if you believe everything about this poll, then even with only half the base in his corner, with so many people still not knowing who he is, and with underperformance among black and Hispanic voters, Chris Bell is still ahead of Carole Keeton Strayhorn, as he is in those other polls I listed (Strayhorn claims second place in an internal poll). For what I hope is the last time, I’m going to say that the idea that only Strayhorn could beat Rick Perry is thoroughly discredited. Why it ever gained currency in the first place will forever be a mystery to me.

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  1. Jim D says:

    If Chris Bell has it in him – and I tend to think he won’t – he might be a strong favorite in any future races, regardless of what happens this year. I think, generally, people like Chris Bell (or at least don’t hate him).

  2. Tim says:

    The Texas governor’s race is a perfect example of why we need instant runoff voting.

    It’s extremely undemocratic, IMO, to let someone win elections with less than a clear majority.

  3. Michael Hurta says:

    I agree completely! Instant Runoff Voting sounds excellent! I didn’t know until now that there was an actual campaign for it to be implemented, but this excites me.

    Of course, I thought I was all special when I thought of IRV on my own, but whatever. It doesn’t matter. I think IRV would be pretty good for democracy if it can be implemented well.

  4. Scott S. Floyd says:

    When we had a special election for the senate seat in my area, the highest votes did not win the first time. If he had, Paul Sadler would have been a senator by a respectable margin. Instead, the top two had a runoff with the Republican coming out on top. Why would we not have this same type of procedure for the governor?

  5. When we had a special election for the senate seat in my area, the highest votes did not win the first time.

    Precisely because it was a special election. Special elections are treated like primaries, and primaries require a majority. General election races do not. It’s all in the election laws for Texas.

    While the Governor’s race is a high profile example of a general election race in which a non-majority of the votes may be sufficient to win, there are many more examples. Check out State Rep. Mark Strama, for example, who knocked off Jack Stick in HD50 with less than 50% of the vote in 2004. And of course, Carole Keeton (then Rylander) Strayhorn won the Comptroller’s job in 1998 with a non-majority. It happens all the time.

  6. Mathwiz says:

    “Could this have been a competitive two-person race? Absolutely. But it was never a competitive two-person race,” said pollster John Zogby. “You get back to that one point: Bell and Strayhorn are blocking one another.”

    John Zogby knows a lot more about these things than I do, but I still think he’s wrong. I don’t think that, if Strayhorn weren’t in the race, Bell would pick up most of her support. A lot would probably revert back to Perry.

    I suppose you could argue that Bell is “blocking” Strayhorn, in that if he weren’t in the race, Strayhorn would get most of the anti-Perry vote (and might even have a chance of winning). So in a sense, Zogby may be half-right. But for that situation to have come about, Strayhorn would’ve had to run as a Democrat and won the primary. Not much chance of that.

    (For the record, I voted for Bell, although had his polls been down in Friedman territory, I probably would’ve held my nose and voted for Strayhorn.)

    When we had a special election for the senate seat in my area, the highest votes did not win the first time.

    Special elections are treated like primaries, and primaries require a majority. General election races do not. It’s all in the election laws for Texas.

    The way I read it, I think Scott understands that, but was questioning why our election laws treat special elections differently from general elections. If so, the answer I’d venture is that the lack of a majority requirement for the general election is a strong disincentive for independents and third parties. (In the present case, a majority requirement might put Perry and Strayhorn into a runoff, a contest which Strayhorn might conceivably win.) Since the folks writing those election laws are mostly Democrats and Republicans, those disincentives work to their benefit.

    BTW, for those who may be wondering about IRV mentioned in the first few comments, it’s a way of holding a runoff without having a second election. Voters can vote for multiple candidates, but if they do so they must rank them in order of preference. For example, I could vote for Bell and Strayhorn, ranking Bell as my first choice and Strayhorn as my second.

    If no candidate gets a majority of voters’ first choices, the weakest candidates are eliminated, and the ballots cast for those candidates are re-examined for second, third, etc. choices that are still in the race. The process continues until one candidate receives a majority.

    It’s rather complex to do by hand, but pretty easy to do by computer. If we ever get voter-verified paper trails and random audits to guard against our votes being hacked, IRV would be an easy and worthwhile add-on to an electronic voting system.

  7. Shane Key says:

    Hopefully by the next election, bloggers will have and communication more substance on candidates that can cut through the spin and hearsay. Total triangulation, by online individuals with inside knowledge, of the background of political candidates will allow the blogosphere to be the political communications tool it’s destined to be. I personally don’t know anything about these candidates besides what’s communicated in advertisements. Because of that, I almost don’t feel qualified to cast an informed ballot.