Texas is considered a toss-up state in a new, and highly suspect, Washington Post-SurveyMonkey “poll” released today (Tuesday). Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump, 46%-45%, in a head-to-head matchup, and they are tied, 40%-40%, when the field included Libertarian Gary Johnson (11%) and Green Jill Stein (3%). In an accompanying story, the Texas result is called “the biggest surprise in the 50-state results.”
Significant methodological problems lead us to conclude that the survey should not be taken seriously.
The survey of 5,147 Texans was conducted entirely online between August 9 and September 1 from a sample of “respondents who completed user-generated polls using SurveyMonkey’s platform during this period.” No margin of error is provided, and one cannot be calculated because the survey sample was not randomly selected. Any voter who did not complete a SurveyMonkey poll in the last month would automatically be excluded from the sample. Older individuals tend to be less likely to complete such surveys online, and other polls suggest that older Texans strongly support Republican candidates.
While results were “weighted to match demographic characteristics of registered voters in each state,” the survey almost certainly oversamples younger voters (and non-voters), who tend to be more supportive of Clinton as a group. Thus, the state appears to be a statistical dead heat.
No breakdowns by gender, age, race or any other characteristic were provided. According to the accompanying story, “Trump is performing worse than 2008 GOP nominee John McCain among both whites and Hispanics, while Clinton is doing slightly better than Obama.” It goes on to state that Trump receives less than 40% of support among women, a group McCain won in 2008. McCain defeated Obama, 55%-44%, in Texas that year.
Recent polls have shown Clinton trailing Trump by less than 10 points, which is consistent with polls taken during the summer of recent election cycles. In nearly every case, the Republican candidate won by a wider margin.
In the SurveyMonkey “poll,” the Libertarian and Green Party candidates receive what would be record levels of support. Johnson is the choice of 11% of survey respondents, which is 10 times the current historical high-water mark for a Libertarian presidential candidate in Texas (Johnson received 1.1% in 2012.). Stein’s 3% support is more in line with the Green Party’s best performance in Texas (Ralph Nader received 2.1% in 2000.). In state history, an alternative candidate to the Democrats and Republicans has received double-digit support just six times.