Saturday, March 1, 2014

Party ID and the Davis/Abbott Gubernatorial Contest

The UT/Texas Tribune February poll has the latest party identification figures for registered voters in Texas and the results of the gubernatorial contest between Democrat Wendy Davis and Republican Greg Abbott. Here are the party identification figures for February 2014:

There are nearly equal percentages of strong Republicans (22 percent) and strong Democrats (21 percent) and of independents who lean either to the Republican Party or to the Democratic Party. The difference is in the percentage of weak partisans. Republicans have a six percentage point margin over Democrats in weak partisans. 

How do the likely Democratic and Republican gubernatorial nominees fare in a contest, had it been held in February 2014. The chart depicts the result:

Gregg Abbott does better among Republican registered voters than Davis does among Democratic registered voters—86 percent for Abbott versus 75 percent for Davis—among independents—42 percent for Abbott versus 36 percent for Davis—and among members of the opposition party—9 percent of Democrats favor Abbott versus 6 percent of Republicans favor Davis. Also, a larger percentage of Democrats are undecided—17 percent of Democrats are undecided whereas only 8 percent of Republicans are undecided. As expected, independents are more likely to be undecided than are Republicans or Democrats.

When you consider only the partisans (i.e., we leave out partisan leaning independents and pure independents), the differences become clearer:

Among strong partisans, Abbott has a slight edge over Davis. However, among weak partisans, Abbott has a 22 percent advantage over Davis. Weak Democrats are much more likely to defect than are weak Republicans. Also, both strong and weak Democrats are much more likely to be undecided than are strong and weak Republicans.

So, what does Davis need to do? First, shore up support among strong and weak Democrats. That requires her to convince those undecided Democrats that she has a chance to win and to allay whatever doubts that they have about her candidacy that makes them undecided at this point in the campaign. Given that it’s seven months until the election, she has the time to accomplish this task and then to concentrate on the independents. Always, you need to secure the members of your party first, then go after the independents.

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