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Why So Much Volatility in Texas?

Topics: 2008 , ARG , Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton , John McCain , Jon Cohen , Likely Voters , Rasmussen , Washington Post

Not surprisingly, the three new Texas polls we posted yesterday provoked quite a bit of discussion. We have three polls showing very different results for the Democrats, but much more consistency for the Republicans. How can that be?

First, a quick summary: A survey sponsored by the Texas Credit Union League and conducted by two campaign pollsters, Hamilton Campaigns (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R) has Clinton leading Obama by eight points (49% to 41%). A new automated survey from Rasmussen Reports has Clinton leading by sixteen (54% to 38%) and a new survey from American Research Group (ARG) shows Obama leading by six (48% to 42%). The Republican results are far more consistent, showing John McCain leading Mike Huckabee by margins of four to eight points.

One likely reason for much of the apparent "volatility" in the Democratic results is that the Obama-Clinton vote preference shows large variation on five critical variables: race and ethnicity, gender, age, socio-economic status and party affiliation (percent non-Democratic on party ID). Small changes in pollster methods (such as whether they sample from a list, how they select respondents within each sampled household, what time of day they call, whether they use live interviewers or an automated methodology and how they weight their data) can produce important differences in sample composition that will in turn affect the vote preference results.

Here is the data available online from the three most recent surveys (some of which was posted by our readers in comments yesterday):

02-16TX_composition.png

Unfortunately, only the TCUL/Hamilton/POS poll provides complete information on its sample composition, although the ARG summary provides percentages for selected subgroups. From these data we can see that the we can see that the TCUL survey includes slightly more Latino voters and slightly fewer African-American voters than the ARG survey. That explains a few points of the difference between them but (as noted below) not all.

The table above also includes sample composition statistics from the 2004 Texas Democratic exit poll, although the 2008 composition will likely be different. Just how different we will not know until the votes are cast, but the exit polls so far this year in other states provide some guidance. The Washington Post's Cohen and Agiesta have put up a very helpful compilation showing the demographic shifts from 2004 to 2008 in 17 states that have held primaries or caucuses so far this year. Women have made up a slightly greater share of Democratic electorates almost everywhere (averaging about a 4 percentage point gain). The percentage of 18 to 29 year olds has also increased in just about every state, up 4 points on average.

The changes in race and ethnicity have been less consistent. Most relevant to Texas are California and Arizona, the two states with the largest Latino populations. In California, the Latino contribution surged (+14), while the African American percentage was roughly constant (-1). In Arizona, the African American percentage as up far more (+6) than the Latino contribution. Cohen and Agiesta also note that black percentage of the Democratic electorate is down slightly in two states (Florida and Virginia) where the Latino percentage increased.

The racial and ethnic composition of the three most recent surveys does not explain the their different Obama-Clinton results. As the following table shows, the biggest difference among the three is that the ARG survey reports an even race among Texas Latino Democrats while the Hamilton/POS and ARG surveys give Clinton a roughly two-to-one lead, comparable to her showing in other states with large Hispanic populations.

02-16TX_vote_by_race.png

Another factor in the "volatility" of these polls -- a factor that is next to impossible to evaluate from the data available -- is how tightly (and accurately) they screen to identify "likely voters." In 2004, the Texas Democratic primary attracted 839,231 voters, 6% of all eligible adults and 5% of all adults in the state. Democratic turnout has increased everywhere this year, nearly doubling on average in primary states (as a percentage of eligible adults) although the state-by-state patterns have varied widely. Texas is all but certain to see a big turnout boost, but just how big is anyone's guess.

They key point here is that polls may yield different results depending on how broadly or narrowly they conceive of the Texas primary electorate. Unfortunately, the degree to which they screen for "likely voters" is hidden from our view.

 

Comments
Soura Dasgupta:

Can any one point to a single democratic primary poll that ARG got right?

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ARG has been pretty terrible this year, but so have many pollsters. They were one of the few pollsters to get Iowa wrong (showed a clinton lead by 9%), but they did get the blowouts right like Maryland, Virginia, and they were pretty good in Missouri. You can browse their results their website.

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ARG called Missouri Dem Primary correctly 44-42%. rob

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polsaa:

There is also an Insider Advantage poll that shows Clinton with a 7 point lead. So if you toss out the two outliers, ARG and Rasmussen, it looks like Clinton has a lead of around 5 to 10 points, which makes sense at this point. Keep in mind also, however, that Texas uses a combined primary/caucus process in which one fourth of the delegates are chosen in caucuses and that delegates are awarded by state senate districts with the number of delegates per district based on the Democratic vote in the 2006 election--an election in which African American turnout was relatively high and Hispanic turnout was relatively low. All of these suggests that Obama could end up with more delegates than the statewide primary vote would indicate and could even win a majority of the delegates from Texas while losing the statewide vote if it is fairly close.

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s.b.:

In Arizona, the black population grew 30% between 2000 and 2005. You can't really extrapolate from this, but the black % of the population increased accounting for some but not all of the 6% increase in black turnout at the polls.

The 2004 primary population estimates for texas are 11% black, which would be using the 2000 census data.

The 2005 census data puts blacks at 12% of the population a 1% total increase, a 9% increase as compared to its own population. This is much lower growth in the black population than in Arizona, which was approximately three times that.


Just something to consider as population changes also affect the % of voter turnout by demographic.

If 6% is the highest estimate of increase in black voter turnout, with three times the increase in blacks in general, then the most increase in black voters we should see in Texas is 2%.

But that is only if the other demographics hold, which I dont think they will.

Does anyone have the data from Texas the last time both Primaries were still contested? Or has that never happened?

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s.b.:

I guess the other thing to consider is that a good portion of blacks in Texas are hispanic, which may also change their voting patterns.

These voters would be from Latin America or the Carribean ie Puerto Rico.

Does anyone know how black hispanics voted? Although they would be mostly in NY which is home stae advantage to Clinton.

Racial demographics say 12% of Texans are black, but only 10% identify as of African ancestry.

I'm sort of guessing here, but I think that means that, 17% of texas blacks are hispanic blacks? Does anyone know?

In Arizona .6% or 14% of the black population are hispanic blacks, which may also have contributed to increases in black turnout there.

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Chris S.:

I'm convinced that ARG just uses a random number generator when they conduct their polls. Here are some of ARG's final pre-election polls from this year:

IA: Clinton up by 9
NH: Obama up by 9 (everyone else got this wrong too, but none were farther off than this except Zogby)
MI: McCain up by 1
SC: Obama up by 3
SC: Huckabee up by 7
FL: Romney up by 2
CA: Romney up by 2

Yes, a lot of the polling has been bad in this cycle, but has anyone else had as many big misses as ARG?

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Greggie:

One thing that has not been noted: Since 2005 Texas' black polulation has increased a LOT. What happened in 2005? Hurricaine Katrina. I live in Dallas. I can tell you that we have MANY more African Americans here than we did 4 years ago. This influx is responsible for the electoral shift in citywide officeholders in the 2006 and 2007 elections (such as the DA and City Council) from White Republican to Black Democrat. The effect is even stronger in Houston, and perhaps strongest in San Antonio where the black population has gone from very small to medium sized. Watch how this plays out... Also note that Austin is Obama country and is the one of the highest-voting-percentage cities in America. I think Obama will win the popular vote down here.

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motoo:

It annoys me when people continue to count the number of blacks who will vote for Obama, There is no racist race in the United States than the black race. We see whites, latinos and other races voting for Obama, and it is like all African Americans are voting for Obama.

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Krassen :

motoo, isn't this an indication that Obama is clearly the better candidate, yet Latinos and Whites are voting against him on prejudice, while Blacks are free from that constraint?

I am sure if Obama was white, he would get a lot more of the Latino and White vote. Not so sure if he would be getting less of the black vote. Sure, the AAs would be less excited than now, when he is one of them, but they would still be voting for him.

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jr1886:

Greggie,

Good point! I never thought of this and once I read your comment I snapped why didn't I think of that. I think that bode well for Obama.

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Syam Adusumilli:

I think we are too early to call this race one way or another. The typical trend has been the Obama catches up quite a bit over the last few days. Also, remember, there are foru states going to the polls on March 4. If Obama can keep it close, and focus on the urban areas, and really liberal vermont, he will pretty much battle Hillary to a stand still. And, if he wins Austin, Houston, Dallas and the border with Louisiana, it will be really close in delegate count. I still think his biggest challenge in Ohio, not Texas. He needs to keep RI close too. Remeber, NC and Mississipi are his states, with potential wipe outs for Hillary. This race will not be decided on March 4, or April 22 (when PA votes) for that matter.

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Jason:

Krassen, it makes absolutely no sense to say that Obama is the better candidate because all the AAs are voting for him and a good percentage of the other races. i agree with motoo, that the other races are just less racist than AAs. no other race or demographic is supporting a candidate 4 (or 5) to 1. the only realistic reason for this is race.

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Bree:

Can we please stop tossing around the word 'racist' so casually. Racism refers to thinking that one race is superior to another. I doubt very much that many African Americans think that their race is superior to the white race. That is not their reason for voting for Obama. Just like everyone else, they vote for the candidate they feel will represent them the best, and have their needs in mind when he goes to the White House. They feel that since he knows what the black experience in America is like, he would be able to represent them properly.

It is also about his politics as well. He talks about unity, self-sacrifice and hope - things AAs (and everyone for that matter) embrace. If Condi Rice was running against him the numbers would be the same in terms of AAs voting pattern.

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cyprian:

I am an AA but won't be voting. However of all the candidates this year I like McCain, Obama ,Edwards, and Ron Paul. I think most AA are voting for Obama because its the first time a person who identifies with them , with a good message, has a chance to be president. If Obama had a crazy message most AA will be voting for Hillary.
However I think this year our candidates are second grade in quality, no one is really that good. Obama will be good for the country from the outside but many people here won't like his style of treating every one the same and befriending other nations, because we think we are superior to other nations. Thats were Obama is going to have problems with some right wingers who don't respect other civilizations.

As an AA i am also concerned Obama being the president, if he fail to turn around this sinking country and everyone will blame it on him. Though I will feel happy, I am not sure if I want him to shoulder all the mess Bush and us spoiled citizens have done to this country, we are going down bit by bit.

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jc:

It seems to me that all polls have favored clinton. even in NH it was rigged so that it made it seem like some sort of comeback. in texas it favors her, to show her ahead.

with regard to the racist voting comments- it is obama's message that resonates with voters. his skin color helps in the aa community, is yet to help in the hispanic community, and has little effect in the white community. white woman are the dominant democratic voting group, and they tend to favor clinton, mostly because of gender and tone. obama's message is important to the less than privileged people, the people who know that they can not, and do not care to, push through the glass ceiling. obama supporters are the individuals who have a lot to say but have not been given a platform.

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dan:

I am sure if Hillary had been black and Obama a white, AA whould be voting for Hillary 90%, citing her experience or something else. I am sick of AA being such low class racists and whining all the time about white racists. And i am sick of whites feeling sorry for blacks all the time like they own them something. This election shows who's who, the rasist are AA, not whites, and we should keep things that way how they are.

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Chuck Miller:

The polls are wrong because the estimate of turnout in the under 35 groups is about half of the actual turnout.

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Cade:

Wow, dan, your ignorance and hate are on full display for everyone to see....

I don't need to address your dimented view of the world. You are obviously mentally deficient. You might want to look up the word "racist" though, as well as read (if you can) Bree's post a few above yours, silly rabbit.

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A.W.:

I am a white, female Mormon, living in Phoenix (McCain's hometown) supporting Obama. When I look at the candidates, I do not see black, white, or Mormon. Race, gender, and religious affiliation should not determine our vote. I support Obama because I agree with his healthcare proposals. I want out of Iraq. I want a president who can bring us together as a country, not further polarize us. I want a president who can repair bridges internationally so we can regain respect again. Those are the things that matter to me in an election. I'm frustrated we even talk about race, gender, and religion when it comes to politics.

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Texas in Africa:

Mark, one problem I see is the distribution of delegates in heavily Hispanic districts. To reward party loyalty, the Texas Democrats allocate delegates based on Democratic turnout in the previous two general elections (2004 and 2006 this year), and turnout for the D's was very low in Hispanic state Senate districts in those years. Thus, they have fewer delegates. Is there any way for the polls to take this into account?

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Daniel T:

Chuck Miller.

I'm with you. I believe that the primary reason for the bad polling is that they cannot get the "likely voters" right. They are stuck in 2004 or 2000 and they haven't caught up.

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Wendy K.:

Cell phones.

Cell phones are ruining accurate polling. Many of the younger and less economically stable voters use cell phone exclusively and don't even have a home land line phone. Pollsters have more trouble tapping into these demographics and when they adjust their percentages out to account for this the error range becomes much wider.

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Keith W:

Please don't listen to the MEDIA, they are giving Obama much more favorable attention, I was hopeing that this campain would not come down to race or gender, But it has and the Media has done what all of us in America have gotten sick of is their afraid of their more concerned with their TV rattings then their reporting the new impartially. Don't fall for this spineless attempt at modern reporting. If you supported Hillary in December, then stand for what you believe in not what the MEDIA believes in. Be American !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Elizabeth:

"motoo, isn't this an indication that Obama is clearly the better candidate, yet Latinos and Whites are voting against him on prejudice, while Blacks are free from that constraint?"

OMIGOD!!!!!

Dolores Huerta endorsed Hillary. Do you KNOW who she is??

The female equivalent of Cesar Chavez is who she is.

Get your noses out of the Obama cult and learn how to THINK!!!!

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bobbie:

OMIGOD

Dolores Huerta is a bigot.
Clearly, your exhortation to "think" is, well, ironic.

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Why is it that racist whites try to mask their rascism by complaining that Blacks are voting for Obama overwhelmingly. The truth of the matter is that no one complained when Blacks voted for White candidates by large percentages, (Bill, Jimmy, AL Gore), even when other Black candidates were in the race. No one complained when we only had White candidates to vote for either. Furthermore there are many instances where Blacks have selected White candidates over Black ones in city, county and state elections, whereas it is extremely rare that Whites have done so. To see Whites voting for a Black candidate at even 30% margins and higher in a national election is historic, remember there have only been two or three Blacks who have won Govenorships and only currently one Black senator. This race give Black Americans hope that perhaps Whites can overcome the racism that unfortunately holds us all down in America. Our hope in this campaign is that perhaps we can "all" be Americans. Think About that!

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Why is it that racist whites try to mask their rascism by complaining that Blacks are voting for Obama overwhelmingly. The truth of the matter is that no one complained when Blacks voted for White candidates by large percentages, (Bill, Jimmy, AL Gore), even when other Black candidates were in the race. No one complained when we only had White candidates to vote for either. Furthermore there are many instances where Blacks have selected White candidates over Black ones in city, county and state elections, whereas it is extremely rare that Whites have done so. To see Whites voting for a Black candidate at even 30% margins and higher in a national election is historic, remember there have only been two or three Blacks who have won Govenorships and only currently one Black senator. This race give Black Americans hope that perhaps Whites can overcome the racism that unfortunately holds us all down in America. Our hope in this campaign is that perhaps we can "all" be Americans. Think About that!

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womanofacertainage:

Were we (African-Americans) being racist when 80% of us voted for John Kerry in 2004? It's possible. John Kerry is, afterall, a member of the human race. We aren't so sure about George Bush and Dick Cheney is definitely suspect.

There are a few black people who will vote for another black person regardless of politics. Such voters are a small minority. Politics is what matters most with African-American voters. I live in Ohio. In 2006, for the first time the Republicans nominated an African-American who had been Secretary of
State, Ken Blackwell for governor. African-Americans voted for his white opponent, Ted Strickland, 70% - 30%.

If anyone is aware of any election, at any time in our nation's history where 70% of white voters have voted for a candidate of any other race when a white candidate was running, please write about it here. I would be glad of the education.

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