UT Tyler hosts local democratic debate focus group

Debate Focus Group

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Tonight’s democratic debate had people all over Texas, and all over the country, watching.

“Given all the conversation about Texas potentially being a purple state," said Dr. Kenneth Bryant Jr., an assistant professor at UT Tyler. “How about we speak with Texans to find out?”

As the nation’s eyes were on the democratic debate, two professors from UT Tyler had their eyes on those watching, locally.

“We’ve recruited people who are involved in party politics in this region,” said Dr. Mark Owens, an assistant professor at UT Tyler. “To find out how democrats are reacting to the democratic candidates."

“We thought it’d be a great opportunity to ask Texans what they think about these candidates,” said Bryant. “Where they are currently and whether the debate helps affirm their belief or change their minds."

The professors said this was important to their research because they expected the candidates to address issues relevant for Texans.

“A huge part for us is actually to hear how the topics are going to respond to the issues facing Texas,” said Owens. “Since the event is in Houston we think a lot of the candidates have been in the state, so they’re trying to find ways to appeal to Texans as much as the two Texans in the race, Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro.”

They also said the focus group allows them to get information they couldn’t get otherwise.

“We’re actually going to get the voters to tell us why they believe or support these candidates, which we can’t get in a survey or poll when we rate people,” said Owens. “So, we’re going to find out some in depth comparison — why females support this candidate, why young people support this person — they can talk about if it’s the answer to a question encouraging them or how they answer the question, their leadership style and performance on stage.”

The professors said they’re hoping to host focus groups with republicans and independents in the future and use them as an opportunity to talk with a wider array of Texans.

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