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Why some polls are less accurate than others

The local GOP had a rally Monday night that among other things featured a “straw poll” of the faithful to see who their preferences were in the upcoming primary election.

Harris County Republicans worked to energize their base on Monday night with a rally at the Galleria, where a parade of statewide candidates pitched voters for support in next year’s primary.

After nearly two hours of speeches, about 300 people participated in a straw poll that showed the party faithful support current Attorney General Greg Abbott for governor and picked state Sen. Dan Patrick almost 4-to-1 for lieutenant governor over the incumbent, David Dewhurst.

With Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson also running for lieutenant governor, that leaves those races open in the Republican primary next March.

Presidential grandson and nephew George P. Bush was the overwhelming favorite to replace Patterson. The crowd nearly split its preference for a new attorney general: Ken Paxton received 157 votes to Barry Smitherman’s 133 votes.

Among the candidates for agriculture commissioner who spoke, voters favored Sid Miller – who joined the race a week ago and has rocker Ted Nugent on his campaign leadership team – with 150 votes over rancher Eric Opiela with 106 votes and J. Allen Carnes with 42 votes.

The group favored Wayne Christian among a half-dozen candidates for railroad commissioner and state Sen. Glenn Hegar of Katy, the author of the abortion restriction law that had certain provisions struck down Monday by a federal court, was the overwhelming choice for comptroller.

As it happens, one of the attendees at this event sent me screenshots of the straw poll from his smartphone. Here are a couple of those images. See if you can spot the problem with the poll’s methodology that my correspondent was unhappy about:

Where's Jerry?

Where’s Jerry?

Where's Debra? Glenn who?

Where’s Debra? Glenn who?

You can see the results of the “poll” here if you’re curious. My correspondent tells me that Jerry Patterson had a table at this event. I’d want a refund if I were him. I’ve noted before that the HCDP generally bends over backwards to avoid favoring one candidate over another in contested primaries, while the Harris County Republican Party often takes sides, so this is somewhat less shocking than it would be for a Democratic event, but still. To me, this is just disrespectful. Here’s another screenshot, with some of the candidates for Ag Commissioner and Railroad Commissioner. Malachi Boyuls, the top fundraiser in the race and who has a big ad in the Texas Conservative Review, was snubbed. It would be interesting to know who made the decisions about which candidates to include or not include in this straw poll, and whether the local GOP leadership knew about and approved of them.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m happy to lob spitballs from the sidelines. I just don’t understand the thinking. Why piss off the supporters of so many viable candidates, at a time when you’re trying to rally the faithful ahead of a tough election? Harris County Republicans face the same problems with demography that have helped defeat them in 2008 and 2012, and they face a fired up Democratic Party thanks to Wendy Davis’ candidacy. They do have the advantage of their huge turnout from 2010, and if a decent fraction of the new-to-off-years voters make a habit of their participation in non-Presidential contests, they could have the numbers to stay ahead of that demographic wave, at least for one more cycle. It surely wouldn’t have cost them anything to design a straw poll that included all of the relevant candidates. I have no idea why they chose not to do so.

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5 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    Maybe this will help here is the link to the Harris County

    Republicans:

    http://www.harriscountyrepublicans.com/about-john

    Which is different from the Harris County Republican Party:

    http://www.harriscountygop.com/

    Two different organizations.

  2. Paul Kubosh says:

    Opps…sorry for the double post. My mistake.

  3. Paul – I get the difference, but the story didn’t say that it was the group “Harris County Republicans” that organized this, just that it was Republicans in Harris County that attended this event. And if you go to the Harris County GOP webpage, this event is advertised right there at the top left, with no disclaimer that it’s been organized or sponsored by someone else. So, I think I’m on solid ground here.

  4. Mainstream says:

    The Harris County official Republican Party under the leadership of Jared Woodfill advertised and sponsored the event, sent out many emails begging folks to attend, and most local GOP activists thought the Party was driving this event. A whole host of other tea party, consultants, and Republican clubs appeared to be cosponsors. I did not attend, but understand the MC for the evening was Dr. Steven Hotze, and that his Conservative Republicans of Texas PAC controlled the registration (which asked attendees which church they attended). If I were a Jerry Patterson supporter (and I may yet become one) I would work to replace Woodfill. You would have to ask the attending candidates to whom the checks for table space were written.

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