THE TEXAS A Journal of Free Voices A Window to the South Sept. Z 1973 Polling for Doggett By Alan Sager Austin When Lloyd Doggett asked me in late May what I thought his chances were of winning the state Senate seat soon to be vacated by Charles Herring, I told him, “Lloyd, you have two chances: slim and none.” It seemed to me that, although a liberal might have a good shot at the seat, he would need to be well-known in the district to defeat Republican Maurice Angly and the expected candidacy Of Rep. Don Cavness. Most of us assumed that Rep. Larry Bales would make the race, and splitting the liberal vote, already diminished by summer vacations, would simply assure the election of a Republican or a conservative. I left Austin on vacation thinking that Lloyd would not announce. But on returning in the first week of June, I found that Larry Bales had been forced by personal finances not to make the race and that Lloyd Doggett was the only progressive candidate in the race. I still doubted that Doggett would win, but my associates and I felt that we should help Lloyd however we could, so we offered to conduct his polling operation. Lloyd agreed, and with the managerial help of John and Karen Dietz on the Doggett campaign staff, PRA conducted a series of polls. OUR FIRST POLL was taken in early June to establish name-recognition of the candidates. The poll confirmed our Dr. Sager is an Assistant Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin and a consultant for Political Research Associates, a newly formed political polling and consulting firm. PRA did the polling for Lloyd Doggett’s campaign. “They’re so damn good,” said one Austin Democratic pro after the Doggett victory, “you just sit there and listen to ’em hum.” intuitive pessimism: fewer than one-third of the voters knew Lloyd Doggett’s name, compared with well over 90 percent knowing Cavness and Angly. Moreover, of those who knew Lloyd, 70 percent were unsure whether he would make a good senator. Of the people who knew Cavness, 2 out of 3 felt he would make a good senator, and of those who knew Angly, 3 out of 4 thought he would do a good job. The Doggett campaign had six weeks to turn this around. My analysis of Travis County’s electoral behavior over the past three years suggests that the county is about 42 percent liberal, 28 moderate and 30 percent conservative. Any credible liberal candidate can expect a minimum of 38 percent of the vote in any given election. A strong liberal candidate can receive as much as 62 percent of the vote. Clearly, the task of the campaign was to identify Lloyd as the liberal and moderate candidate. If he could do that, I felt he had a good chance to make the runoff. This first poll showed Angly and Cavness tied. with 28 percent of the vote each, 5.7 percent for Doggett, 3.4 percent for Dave Shanks, a witty “Truman Democrat” in the midst of LBJ country. The remaining 36 percent were undecided. My partners and I thought these results were grim. The Doggett campaign leaders, however, seemed unconcerned. They knew it was an uphill battle, and the large number of undecided people who obviously knew both Cavness and Angly were a source of encouragement to them. But to us there was further discouraging data in the poll: Doggett’s supporters seemed less motivated that the other candidates’ and thus seemed least likely to turn out and vote. Furthermore, when we asked our sample, “Who are you least likely to vote for?” Doggett was the clear leader. There were valid questions about the accuracy of this first poll. Our sample had been drawn randomly from the telephone book, and we had no technique for determining its adequacy. To me, as a sometime professor of political statistics, the poll failed to meet conventional academic criteria for validity. Despite that, a few demographic questions, such as sex, race, student status and party identification, suggested that the sample was indeed sufficiently random and the results fairly reliable. For example, over the whole series of Doggett polls, we found percentage of people identifying themselves as Republicans consistently between 12 and 14 percent. The polls during this first election period were not particularly sophisticated. We asked few questions and our analysis was uncomplicated. These pre-runoff polls were used mainly to measure the extent to which the campaign was reaching potential liberal and moderate Doggett voters. The next few polls recorded a dramatic
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