Media Misread Polling Data To Conclude Ted Nugent's Racist Comment Helped Abbott
Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON
Media covering the controversy over Republican Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott's decision to campaign with inflammatory National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent are touting a poll showing Abbott with an 11 point lead as proof that Nugent has not hurt Abbott's campaign. But data collection for the poll ended on February 17, a day before the Nugent-Abbott controversy first received widespread attention.
On February 18, the day Nugent made two campaign appearances with Abbott, the Texas Democratic Party condemned Abbott for campaigning with someone who had recently called President Obama a "subhuman mongrel." A week-long media firestorm ensued that included condemnations of Nugent from prominent GOP figures, a disingenuous apology from Nugent, and a contentious appearance by Nugent on CNN.
On February 24, University of Texas/Texas Tribune released a poll conducted between February 7 and 17 showing Abbott leading likely opponent Democrat Wendy Davis 47 percent to 36 percent. 17 percent of voters were undecided in the poll. Notably, the polling covers a period when Davis was receiving largely negative press coverage because of a right-wing media smear campaign about her biography.
Still, members of the media have erroneously used the polling to offer insights about the impact of the Nugent controversy on the Texas governor's race.
During a February 25 CNN appearance on Erin Burnett OutFront, CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson pointed to the poll to claim, "What's interesting is, about this is, one of the things in the polling. I think a lot of people in Texas are not judging Ted Nugent by this one comment." He went on to claim, "Greg Abbott -- people thought were going to be hurt by these comments -- has actually opened up a wider lead, an 11 point lead over Wendy Davis because I think the Democrats went a little bit too hard to try to destroy Greg Abbott because of his relationship with" Nugent. Host Erin Burnett responded, "That's a pretty incredible thing, if it's true. That you would actually see the poll numbers go up on the basis of that."
Nugent himself cited the poll during an appearance on conservative Dana Loesch's radio show to claim that a "Ted Factor" was helping Abbot:
NUGENT: I think it is time to celebrate on The Dana Show and I know you will join me as I dance -- that Greg Abbott experienced an 11 percent increase in his gap over Wendy Davis, which on my Facebook the millions of people attribute to the "Ted Factor." So I'm on course, history will show me as being in the asset column. History will show that the liberal Democrats were in the liability column, and I know that will be true.
Other commentators have misread the poll to draw conclusions about the race. According to a February 26 Daily Beast article the polling "certainly shows that Abbott's decision to keep company with Nugent did him no harm at all in the state."