Focus groups are at best a hit and miss way to assess public opinion, but I have a focus group that has never failed. It is bigger than most; about 24 people if they all answer the phone. They all live in Dallas north of I30. Demographically and geographically they are pretty representative of northern Dallas. There isn’t one politician in the bunch but they usually vote. I call up around election time and check their pulse. Two-thirds said “Strong Mayor” was history and it was.
About 80% said Laura Miller would be Mayor and it was so – twice. Even the few folks who said they were voting for Tom Dunning and Mary Poss predicted a Miller victory. Back then my focus group friends (who until now had no idea they were part of a focus group) used descriptive terms like “tough,” “kick-butt,” “breath-of-fresh-air,” and “no-nonsense” to describe the Mayor. Today the Mayor has not one sure vote in the group. They use descriptive terms like “power-mad,” “wing-nut,” “obsessed,” and “embarrassing.” The election is a year and a half away and there is much water yet to flow under our Calatrava bridge but these are surely not the descriptive terms any politician wants to hear.