Texas Lyceum: Poll Dancing

A poll from Texas Lyceum, a non-partisan and non-profit organization, was released earlier today and everyone’s losing their minds over it.  The poll shows Rick Perry with 33 percent support, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison with 21. Undecideds accounted for 45 percent of the poll, while the remaining 1 percent said they would vote for Leo Berman.  It is unclear how many in the last category cast their vote for the sake of irony.

Obviously candidates that lead in polls use them to amp up their support.  Perry’s camp is claiming that Hutchison’s numbers “continue to drop,” while Hutchison’s camp points out that two-thirds of Texans do not want Rick Perry to be governor for another four years.

So, who’s right?  Political gurus have already weighed in on this poll, and while they don’t go as far as calling it meaningless, it’s obvious the results mean little.  Why?  For starters, we’re still at least eight months away from the primary, and Hutchison is not a formal candidate (for that matter, is anyone?)  Numbers will climb, slip, soar and slide between now and March–it’s just how these things go.

A bigger issue raising concerns regarding this poll is the respondents.  Only 267 of the 860 identified themselves as Republicans. To bolster this, Paul Burka points out what would be an unusual response for GOP voters:

And the respondents supposedly represent Republican primary voters. (I say “supposedly” because the support for gay unions in yesterday’s issues poll was very high — in the upper fifties — considering the overwhelming support for the constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage. Furthermore, according to the poll’s methodology, the sample for Republican primary voters was very small — 267 — and had a [margin of error] of +/- 6.04%.)

Burka also points out that Perry’s 33 percent is actually a slide from his 39 percent he received and won with in 2006.

Another quirk in the poll are the approval ratings.  Hutchison beats Perry here 65 to 57. This is really no surprise, as most previous polls have had somewhat similar results.  But President Obama garnered a 68 percent approval rating. In Texas.  Yes, that Texas.

Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, had this to say regarding this odd result:

“After months of Governor Perry pushing back at a Democratic president by talking about tea parties, secession, and his rejection of a chunk of federal stimulus money, both the governor and President Obama received solid approval ratings. It’s hard to know whether Texans are ignoring politics or just tolerating them while they wait to see if anyone can help the economy.

A fair point, and one that might answer itself with time.  Burka takes a similar view of the situation, but zeroes in more on the Perry/Hutchison match up:

[Perry] has based his campaign on making Hutchison the candidate of Washington and positioning himself as the candidate of Texas. He’s been hammering away at “Washington” since September, and at Kay “Bailout” Hutchison, but Obama’s approval rating in Texas is way up there, similar to what it is nationally. Hutchison is in the stratosphere at 65% favorable to 17% unfavorable. That is going to be hard for him to tear down. Perry’s own favorables are the best they have ever been, but he is the incumbent, and the election is going to be about him — unless he can somehow manage to redefine her. It’s hard to redefine someone with a miniscule 17% disapproval rating.

It’s therefore difficult to know what to take from this poll.  I think it’s clear that this will be a tight race.  Aside from that, it’s difficult to extract much more.

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