Three weeks ago, Rodriguez penned a column explaining how politicians react to polls, illustrated by gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell’s spasm at his poor results to the daily’s online poll. The columnist wrote: “That should have surprised no one since ... more people had heard of Bigfoot than Bell.”
Huh? We called him on it.
“It was a one-liner,” Rodriguez said.
“It was a two-liner,” we corrected him.
“It was a joke. It wasn’t anything that was scientifically backed up. As you know, I write opinion. I am a columnist. I couldn’t get away with writing that if I were writing a news story about the gubernatorial race,” he blustered.
“But even as a joke,” we explained, “it doesn’t make sense because you can easily say more people have heard of Bigfoot than Rick Perry.”
And so we set about proving it, meticulously and scientifically, by canvassing the pollsters on our lists about Bigfoot’s name recognition. Here are our results.
Gallup Organization – The first and most prestigious name in political polling, mostly because no one will ever forget how long they’ve been around thanks to the Dewey-Truman fiasco of 1948. Snootily they refused to comment on the Bigfoot controversy, explaining that normally they don’t poll about candidates who have less name recognition than Bigfoot.
SurveyUSA – These are the guys leading the pack these days in polling, through their automated, pre-recorded pollster system. It’s proven pretty damned accurate in the last few years, and certainly has the most entertaining voice-mail system we’ve ever navigated.
“I’m trying to take you seriously, and I understand what you’re doing,” Jay Leve, a SurveyUSA editor answered. “But I have no opinion whatsoever on this topic.”
Zogby Interactive – Everyone loves Zogby, and it’s not just that the name’s fun to say: Their experimental online-polling system produces interesting results. While not always accurate (they blew it in the 2004 presidential election, predicting a John Kerry win), they do have attitude. And they agreed with us.
“Believe it or not, you still have people who don’t know who George W. Bush is,” Zogby Communications Director Fritz Wentzel told us. “But, it would be hard to find any adult who hasn’t heard of Bigfoot. Bigfoot wins out over everyone but Superman.”
Let’s hope third place goes to Jesus.
Rasmussen Reports – Rasmussen’s another supremely respected pollster, having correctly predicted every state’s results in the 2004 presidential election. Although founder Scott Rasmussen personally emailed us to find out why we were calling, he declined to respond to our Bigfoot query. Shrug. He’s an Evangelical Christian anyway.
Blum & Welprin – The small New York-based outfit is a media favorite, polling for the LA Times and MSNBC, and in Texas for the Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle. According to director Micheline Blum, of course Bigfoot has better name recognition, but that shouldn’t void the point that two-thirds of likely voters didn’t know Chris Bell from Taco Bell.
National Tally: 2 for Bigfoot, 3 no response.
Opinion Analysts Inc. – This Austin-based polling firm serves almost exclusively Texans for Insurance Reform, a.k.a, the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. They agreed with us. Jeff Smith said, “Yeah, Bigfoot probably has better name ID than Rick Perry.”
Baselice & Associates – The Austin firm boasts every major Republican candidate on its client list, from Bonilla to Perry (the latter paid the firm $400,000 for quarterly polls). If you can get ahold of Baselice’s prediction, consider your bets hedged: In 2002, they predicted Perry and Abbott’s wins within .2 percentage points. They didn’t return our calls.
Local Results: 1 for Bigfoot, 1 no response.
Google Search – You can gauge public opinion rather simply with Google searches. OK, it’s unscientific, but it sure is fun. For example, by using closed-quotation phrase searches, you discover that “Rick Perry sucks” seven times more than “Kinky Friedman blows.” When you search for Perry, Google returns 1 million or so hits; Bigfoot returns 8 million.
Google: 1 for Bigfoot.
So, there you have it. Final Stats: 100 percent of participating respondents agreed that Rodriguez is a tool ... err ... we mean, that Bigfoot (who according to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization has been sighted in Texas 155 times, most recently in August 2006) is bigger than any of the candidates.