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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Poll: Democratic Party Improves Image in Texas

A new poll gives Texas Democrats some room for holiday cheer. Texans now believe that the Democratic Party does as good or better a job than the Republican Party inTexas on nine of 10 issues tested, according to a recent poll. That marks a shift from a similar poll two years ago.

Since the summer of 2001, Montgomery & Associates, an independent research firm based in Austin, Texas, has been running surveys tracking statewide political issues and elected officials.

This survey was conducted from November 30 - December 18, 2006 and tested 1,053 Texas residents over the age of 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1%. This survey was a random sample of adult Texas residents matching state demographics.

Montgomery & Associates is conducting the survey independently, and hasnot been paid by any candidate or party. In partisan political races, the firm works for Democratic candidates. Note that the Texas Directions survey does not sample registered voters or likely voters; it is intended to sample the opinions and attitudes of the adult population of Texas as awhole.

In July 2004, Texas Directions asked which party did a better job on each of 16 issues. The Republicans were chosen on 10 of those issues, the Democrats on five, and on one the two parties tied.

This year, the survey tested 10 of the original 16 issues, with much different results. Democrats were chosen as doing a better job on six of the 10, and the two parties tied on three other issues. Republicans were seen as doing a better job on only one issue.

"We also asked about these issues in 2005," says Jeff Montgomery, president of Montgomery & Associates, "and we saw some minor shifting toward the Democrats that year. But this year's changes are much more dramatic."

Montgomery adds, "In 2004, we took a lot of heat from Democrats statewide for our results. This year I expect to take some heat from the GOP. But clearly, we are seeing a shift in the way Texans regard the two parties."

Montgomery emphasizes that the population sampled in this poll represented Texas adults, not Texas voters. "So these results do not suggest that the state will turn Democratic in 2008," he says. "But at least Democrats have halted the decade-plus decline in Texans' view of their party."

Montgomery says some of the most striking results came in the softer, values-related questions. In 2004, 51% said the Republicans do a better job of "sharing your values" compared to only 32% for Democrats. This year, the two parties are tied at about 42%.

Also in 2004, 42% said the Republicans do a better job of "caring about people like you," compared to only 33% for Democrats. This year, the Democratic Party has a strong lead in this question, 46% to 35%.

Montgomery also notes that the two parties tied on "getting the most out of the taxpayer dollar," normally a strong issue for Republicans.

Respondents were also split by party: 45% consider themselves Democrats, and 43% Republicans. In 2004, only 34% were Democrats, while 55% were Republicans.

Democrats also led in 2006 on improving education, helping urban areas, and funding public schools fairly, all issues where the Republicans led or the two parties tied in 2004. And Democrats increased the size of their 2004 leading margins on two issues: "helping rural communities" (from an 8-point lead in 2004 to a 17-point lead in 2006) and "making health care affordable to all" (from a 9-point lead in 2004 to a 28-point lead in 2006).

As in 2004, Republicans were chosen as doing a better job on "building and maintaining state roads and highways, but their margin fell to 11 points, compared to 27 points in 2004.

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