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Harris County poll: Hidalgo 53, Emmett 47

From the inbox last week:

Lina Hidalgo

The Lina Hidalgo campaign for Harris County Judge today released the results of its first county-wide poll, showing the Democratic challenger leading the Republican incumbent by a stunning six percentage points; among Harris County voters who plan to vote in the County Judge race, 53% plan to vote for Lina Hidalgo and 47% say they will vote for Ed Emmett.

The poll, conducted by Texas Democratic Party-authorized polling firm, Change Research, surveyed more than 1700 registered voters in Harris County on May 11, 12, 13, 19, and 20, and has a margin of error of +/- 3%.

“This poll supports what I am hearing as I travel to every corner of Harris County – that people are ready for new, authentic leadership for the future,” said Hidalgo. “In spite of the poll’s heartening results, I plan to campaign every day as if we are six points down, not six points up. I will work my heart out to make sure that every voter in Harris County feels heard and included.”

Other poll findings of note include:

94% of Harris County voters report feeling more interested (56%) in or equally as interested (38%) in the 2018 election as they have felt about prior elections.

President Trump is viewed unfavorably by 60% of Harris County voters

Voters report that the three issues that will drive their voting behavior most in November are:

1. Government transparency
2. Education
3. Jobs

Like me, you probably had a lot of questions when you saw this. I went ahead and emailed the Hidalgo campaign to get more information about the poll, and they graciously provided me this executive summary and this spreadsheet with the questions and answers broken down by race/age/gender/etc. I think the best way to present the fuller data set and discuss the points I want to raise are to go through the questions and responses in the spreadsheet. So with that said, here we go.

Question: Which of the following best desribes you? “I live in Harris County, am registered to vote, and identify as a”:


               All  Trump  Clinton  No vote
===========================================
Democrat     41.6%   1.2%    74.9%    23.2%
Republican   33.5%  78.9%     2.0%    14.2%
Independent  24.9%  19.9%    23.1%    52.6%

Question: Do you plan to vote in the November 6, 2018 elections?


               All  Trump  Clinton  No vote
===========================================
Yes          81.4%  89.9%    87.9%    56.8%
Maybe        16.5%   8.8%    11.4%    30.0%
No            2.2%   1.2%     0.7%    13.2%

Question: How interested are you in the election in 2018 compared to previous elections?


               All  Trump  Clinton  No vote
===========================================
More         56.3%   46.5%   69.1%    39.8%
Same         38.0%   50.4%   26.2%    37.4%
Less          1.9%    2.2%    0.8%     9.5%
Unsure        3.7%    0.9%    3.8%    13.3%

First things first, all responses are given as percentages rather than number of respondents. You can reverse engineer that, of course, but I think it’s more illustrative to provide both. That will especially be the case with some later questions. I sent a separate email to the contact for the polling firm about that; I’ll update if I get a response.

In the questions above, “Trump” and “Clinton” refer to the subset of people who said they voted for Trump or Clinton in 2016, while “No vote” are the people who said they didn’t vote in 2016. There isn’t a question asking why someone did not vote in 2016, so it could be the case that they were not eligible – too young, or not yet a citizen – or not registered. Basically, this says there are more people who identify as Democrats in Harris County – I don’t think that is a surprise to anyone – and a larger share of self-identified Republicans voted for Trump than Dems voted for Clinton. As for questions 2 and 3, it sure seems like everyone is excited to vote this fall, with Democrats perhaps more so. Needless to say, that remains to be seen. How true these sentiments are will be the million dollar question for candidates, pollsters, and loud-mouthed pundits.

Question: In the 2016 election, did you vote for:


Trump      36.8%
Clinton    48.7%
Johnson     2.8%
Stein       2.4%
No vote     9.4%

As a reminder, 53.95% of voters in Harris County actually voted for Hillary Clinton, while 41.61% voted for Trump. Gary Johnson took 3.03%, while Jill Stein had 0.90%, which means this poll oversamples Jill Stein voters. Make note of the date, you may never see that again. Another 0.43% wrote in Evan McMullin, and a further 0.09% wrote in someone else. If you go back to question 1, that’s why the Trump/Clinton/No vote subsets didn’t add up to 100%.

(Yes, I’m jumping around a little. This is how I want to present the data.)

Question: On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel about President Donald Trump today? 1 = strongly oppose, 10 = strongly support


               All  Trump  Clinton  No vote
===========================================
1            39.7%   0.3%    71.8%    35.5%
2            10.0%   0.0%    18.3%     3.5%
3-8          20.3%  15.2%     9.5%    47.9%
9             5.6%  14.2%     0.0%     4.3%
10           24.4%  64.1%     0.4%     8.8%

Allow me to point to this tweet by Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report to explain what this means.

90.1% of Clinton voters have the strongest negative feelings about Trump, while 78.3% of Trump voters have the strongest positive feelings about him. ‘Nuff said. Oh, and the non-voters mostly don’t like him, too.

Question: For whom do you plan to vote in the 2018 election for US Senate?


                 All  Trump  Clinton  No vote
=============================================
Ted Cruz       42.0%  93.4%     3.6%    31.2%
Beto O'Rourke  49.3%   2.1%    90.5%    52.2%
Neal Dikeman    1.9%   1.1%     0.7%     4.1%
Bob McNeil      6.9%   3.4%     5.2%    12.5%

Neal Dikeman is the Libertarian candidate. Bob McNeil is an independent who could be fairly classified as farther to the right than Cruz. He’s also not yet officially on the ballot yet, as he has to turn in some 47K petition signatures to the Secretary of State by June 21. Good luck with that. His presence in the question is basically noise, so don’t be too distracted by it. There won’t be a Green Party candidate. The 3.6% of Clinton supporters for Cruz is a reminder that there were a non-trivial number of Republicans who crossed over to vote for Clinton in 2016. Note here that all the numbers add up to 100, which is something that never happens in polls. You will see a possible mechanism for this in the next section.

Oh, and as for that Quinnipiac poll, don’t try to reconcile these two results. I think it is unlikely that O’Rourke could win Harris County by seven points while losing the state by double digits, but that doesn’t imply in any way that one poll is more “valid” or “correct” than the other. They are their own separate data points.

Question: For whom do you plan to vote in the 2018 election for Harris County Judge?


                 All  Trump  Clinton  No vote
=============================================
Ed Emmett      34.3%  74.9%    13.9%    14.0%
Lina Hidalgo   33.5%   2.8%    63.5%    30.4%
Won't vote     32.2%  22.4%    22.7%    55.6%

Question for undecided voters: If you had to choose for whom to vote for Harris County Judge in the 2018 election, who would you select?


                 All  Trump  Clinton  No vote
=============================================
Ed Emmett      24.7%  67.9%     9.8%    14.6%
Lina Hidalgo   44.7%  14.8%    74.7%    45.1%
Won't vote     30.7%  17.3%    15.5%    40.4%

Totals excluding undecided voters:


                 All  Trump  Clinton  No vote
=============================================
Ed Emmett      47.2%  93.7%    16.7%    28.5%
Lina Hidalgo   52.8%   6.3%    83.3%    71.5%

And here is how we get to the headline number. I don’t care for this construction. Having “won’t vote” as a choice rather than the more standard “don’t know” is a weird decision, one that casts some doubt on the “enthusiasm for voting” question. Regardless, any way you look at it, one may reasonably conclude that these voters as a group may be less likely than those who picked a name. As such, you can’t add them together. It’s my presumption that the pollster went through a similar exercise in the US Senate question (this might help explain the bizarrely high percentage for the candidate who probably won’t be on the ballot, who I’d bet none of the respondents had ever heard of – basically, he’s the “none of the above” choice), though they didn’t show the individual steps for how they got there.

I mean look, Ed Emmett has to be the best-known politician in the county, while Lina Hidalgo – who was unopposed in March and didn’t have much money as of January – surely has low name recognition. The fact that she was within a point of him in the first question, assuming the sample is reasonable, is pretty encouraging on its own. It’s a reflection of the partisan split in Harris County – remember, Emmett gets a significant number of crossovers – and demonstrates that Hidalgo has a lot of room to grow, as surely a decent number of those “won’t vote” respondents are actually likely Dems who just don’t know who she is yet. I don’t understand the need to push it further than that. And in thinking about it, I’m a little concerned that the O’Rourke/Cruz first-question numbers were a few points closer, with the “but if you had to choose” question being the reason for the larger gap.

So what do I make of this? As I say, it’s a data point. Maybe it will be in line with others – I’m sure we’ll see other polls – and maybe it won’t. I expect we’ll see plenty of conflicting results – again, so much of this depends on who shows up in November, and right now no one knows how that will look. We’re guessing. Some will guess better than others, and will base their guesses on better data. I think this particular result is optimistic, but reasonably so. Plausibly so. I’ll feel better if and when I see more results like it, or results from other races that correlate with it. But it’s one result, and the Quinnipiac experience reminds us again to not put too much stock in any one result.

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16 Comments

  1. Manny Barrera says:

    Don’t know about polls as you can get to give you what you want and they can swing very wide, for instance the Beto v Canadian polls. But I do think that the Democrats will turn Harris County a very bright patriotic blue. About time we got rid of the Russian red color.

  2. Flypusher says:

    Emmett is one of literally a handful of GOPers who I would vote for. But I am no longer a Harris Co. resident.

  3. Jules says:

    The GOP has betrayed the country. It will be a long time, if ever, that I vote Republican again.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    If Lina can guarantee she will get the Astrodome torn down, I bet she’d get a lot of Republican voters to vote for her, guaranteeing a win. Other than Emmett’s extreme fetish for the Dome, he’s been a fairly effective leader.

  5. C.L. says:

    @Bill, there ain’t no tearing down the ‘Dome now, regardless of who’s Judge. You can thank the folks that paid for the plaque for that.

  6. Jules says:

    Love the dome!

  7. […] Kuffer today has thoughts on Lina Hidalgo’s poll that she tweeted out the other day. Hidalgo is our Dem nominee for Harris County Judge. Here is from Kuffer: http://offthekuff.com/wp/?p=86330. […]

  8. mollusk says:

    Emmett is one of the few Rs that I won’t vote against – not to be confused with necessarily voting for his opponent. I try to stay up on things, and candidly, I don’t know diddly about Lina Hidalgo.

  9. General Grant says:

    Emmettwill run ahead of the local GOP, but if Dems win Harris County by enough he’ll lose anyway. That is really the dynamic here.

  10. Kenneth Fair says:

    This result – even if it’s an outlier – bodes very well for the Democrats up and down the ticket in November. Emmett (like Robert Eckels before him) has been a good steward for the county and always seemed to be more interested in getting things done than playing partisan games. His coordination with Bill White during Hurricane Ike and Sylvester Turner during Hurricane Harvey certainly impressed me. As several other commenters here have expressed, he’s a Republican that even strong Democrats have to consider voting for.

    Even though I would expect the race to tighten as November approaches, if his race is even close, that spells bad news for the down-ballot Republicans.

  11. Gary D says:

    Thank you for this and an excellent analysis.

  12. Manny Barrera says:

    Did I miss something has Emmett spoke out against the Russian cheeto that leads the party of whom he is a member?

    On Immigration-SB4 https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/2017/07/11/220987/commissioners-court-decides-on-sanctuary-cities-lawsuit/

    On Education- http://www.burntorangereport.com/diary/14127/guest-post-150000-harris-county-voters-vs-county-judge-ed-emmett

    Our country is being destroyed by those in the Trump party, not a single member of the Trump party should be in elected office. It is the Trump Party so says –
    https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/31/politics/john-boehner-republican-party/index.html

    For many years I have voted in the Republican Party hoping to vote for moderates, unfortunately the party of Trump did not turn to the center it turned to the far right.

    A vote for any Republican is a vote for Trump.

  13. Manny Barrera says:

    mollusk if you don’t know anything about Hidalgo it is because you choose to remain ignorant

    http://www.linahidalgo.com/

    https://www.facebook.com/Lina4HC/

    https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/election/article/Q-A-Lina-Hidalgo-12717237.php

    I understand why white males would not vote for someone that is not male nor white, it occurs very often, Hillary Clinton being one of the best examples. She is white but she is not male and is in fact a very strong woman, that must be tough of some male egos.

  14. mollusk says:

    Manny, you miss my (probably inartfully made) point. Very few people will go digging for an unopposed candidate’s website or Facebook page (I generally don’t. Shoot me). I read the fishwrap daily and don’t remember seeing the q&a. I attend a monthly Democratic professional organization’s luncheon that generally fills up a pretty large dining room; if she came to one of them to introduce herself it was likewise forgettable. I’m willing to bet that the average sitting judge has better name recognition than Ms. Hidalgo at this point. That gives her quite a climb in taking on Ed Emmett, since even in this climate he can still claim a good chunk of crossover vote as a known, generally recognized as competent, not overtly crazy quantity.

  15. C.L. says:

    @Manny… Hillary was a train wreck of candidate. Was then, is now. Certainly the Dems have/can drum up someone better than she or Bernie come 2020….

  16. Manny Barrera says:

    C.L. if Hillary was a train wreck what would you call Trump? He is still a racist, bigot, corrupt, Russian loving orange cheeto idiot.

    Mollusk, fishwrap, has nothing on Emmett either that is very limited reading if that is your only source, I guess this blog would add to your reading list.

    Hidalgo made the cover of Time – https://medium.com/@runforsomething/feel-good-update-17-run-for-something-women-on-the-cover-of-time-magazine-and-so-much-more-c34558f79ac6

    Like I stated before I understand why some white males egos are so threatened by women and people of color.