The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993 Page: 138
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Southwestern Historzcal Quarterly
to the president. "Rather than providing a direct link to a critical public," he
asserts that during the Johnson administration "polls provided a barrier to re-
ality that only served to increase presidential isolation" (p. xiii).
Altschuler focuses in part on the Johnson White House's use of polls for
understanding elections that were important to the president and the Demo-
cratic party. But Altschuler laments that Johnson's main concern was always to
test his own popularity and to evaluate his freedom to act. In 1968, this resulted
in what Altschuler calls "a dangerous misunderstanding of public opinion"
(p. 99). Johnson was unable to understand or anticipate that the political tide
had turned against him.
In addition to examining the use of polls during Johnson's campaign, Alt-
schuler also examines the use of polls in the formation of Johnson's social poli-
cies, economic policies, and Vietnam policy. In each area, the Johnson adminis-
tration's performance is lacking by Altschuler's standards. Johnson's concern
generally was limited to evaluating the public's approval of his current policies,
rather than attempting to formulate an understanding of public preferences
for policy initiatives or to adjust administration policies once established.
This is an interesting and well-researched book. The book has only one
minor shortcoming. Altschuler is not always consistent in his expectations con-
cerning proper presidential use of public opinion polls. For example, in his dis-
cussion of Johnson's social policies, Altschuler faults Johnson for not using polls
to help determine "whether providing more information to the public would
be a strategy worth pursuing" (p. 36). Yet he also faults Johnson for using polls
about his Vietnam policy as a basis for "a redoubled effort to do a better job of
selling the current policy" (p. 47). Altschuler is not always clear about the ex-
tent to which he believes the president should lead rather than follow public
Ultimately, however, this book does an excellent job of demonstrating that
polls are not a cure for the isolation of the president from public opinion.
Mount Saint Mary's College MICHAEL J. TOWLE
El Paso: A Borderlands History. By W. H. Timmons. (El Paso: Texas Western
Press, 1990. Pp. xxi+387. Foreword, introduction, black-and-white illus-
trations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $30, cloth; $20, paper.)
The average Texan is more familiar with the history of London than the his-
tory of El Paso. That may be one reason W. H. Timmons states, "El Paso is in
Texas, but it should be in New Mexico" (p. 307) in this history of the city where
the author is known as "Mr. History" (p. xiii). A more important reason is the
current dispute between El Paso and New Mexico over water. He points out
that El Paso may make history once more as the first major western city to ex-
haust its water supply.
Current may be the key word here. Timmons, professor emeritus of history
at the University of Texas at El Paso, writes not only about the early Spanish
explorers and settlers but traces the city and its people, primarily Anglo and
Mexican American, to 1990. More than 6o percent of the current population of
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993, periodical, 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/m1/164/: accessed May 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.