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Trump narrowly leads Biden in presidential race in Texas, UT/TT Poll finds

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Donald Trump would beat Joe Biden 49%-44% in Texas if the presidential race were held now, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

In the Trump-Biden contest, Democratic and Republican voters overwhelmingly back their own party’s candidate. But independent voters are on the fence, with 39% favoring Trump, 29% favoring Biden and 32% saying they haven’t formed an opinion.

Female voters are split, 46% to 46%, on the presidential race. Male voters are solidly with Trump, 53% to 41%. In the poll, Trump beat Biden 60% to 34% among white voters, but Biden is far ahead with black voters (74% to 16%) and in the lead with Hispanic voters (50% to 40%). Other differences show up in geography, with 57% of urban voters favoring Biden, Trump leading in the suburbs, 49% to 43%, and 67% of rural voters in Texas saying they’d favor the Republican.

Trump has a harder race against himself. Ask Texans whether they would vote today to reelect the president and, as they have done in four previous UT/TT polls, they split down the middle: 50% say they would vote for him, 49% said they’d vote against him. Among Republican voters, 81% say they would definitely vote for Trump, and another 11% say they probably would. Democratic voters are just the opposite, with 85% definitely planning to vote for someone else, and 9% probably planning to. Most independent voters — 61% — would vote for someone else, while 39% say they’d vote for the president.

It’s only when you add Biden to the mix that Trump pulls ahead. “When you put a flesh-and-blood opponent against them, they do better,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

This year might make that usual head-to-head comparison more difficult, Shaw said.

“The reality nationally is that, for the first time in a long time, the incumbent isn’t going to be able to make it a comparison,” he said. “It’s going to be a referendum election about how the president is doing. First of all, it’s Trump, Trump, Trump all the time. And all the news is about coronavirus.”

In a slight shift from the February UT/TT Poll, Texas voters were more likely to say Trump is doing a good job. Overall, 49% say they approve strongly (36%) or somewhat (13%) of the job he’s doing, while 45% say they disapprove, including 39% who disapprove strongly. In the February survey, 45% of voters gave the president a good report card while 48% gave him a bad one.

The partisans barely overlap on Trump’s performance, with 90% of Republicans saying they approve of the job he’s doing and 87% of Democrats saying they disapprove.

Asked their opinion of the president’s Democratic rival, only 35% of the voters say they have a favorable impression of Biden, while 51% have an unfavorable one — including 40% who say their impression of the former vice president is “very unfavorable.”

Voters: Trump is doing OK on the pandemic and economy, but Abbott’s better

Trump’s handling of the economy gets approving marks from 49% of the state’s registered voters, including 89% of Republicans. Another 42% — a group that includes 82% of Democrats — disapprove.

Voters give him similar grades on his response to the pandemic. While 48% approve, 45% disapprove. The first group includes 86% of Republicans, and the second includes 84% of Democrats.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s report card is much stronger, and he also gets good marks from some of the Democrats who are dissatisfied with the president.

Asked about Abbott’s handling of the economy, 54% approve — including 86% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats. Only 25% disapprove, including 46% of Democrats and 4% of Republicans.

A majority — 56% — approve of Abbott’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, while 29% disapprove. Most of the Democrats, 51%, disapprove. But 30% of Democrats, along with 86% of Republicans, give the governor good marks.

“Democrats as a group aren’t suddenly swinging over to Abbott, but you look at his support among Democrats versus Trump’s, and it’s clear that Abbott is peeling off some support from Democrats,” said James Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “He’s won some of them over.

“The approach he was criticized for by some on his right flank won him support not only from a lot of Republicans, but also among Democrats.”

Most voters, 56%, say national efforts to deal with the pandemic are going “very” or “somewhat” well. They’re more positive about what’s going on in Texas: 66% say that’s going well.

The state gets better ratings on specifics of its response: providing people with clear information, preventing the spread of the virus, making sure health care workers have necessary equipment and working with local officials. More than half of the voters gave the state approving marks on all of those points, falling just short of a majority on the state’s efforts to reduce economic harm.

The federal government didn’t get marks like those; working with state and local officials was the only place where a majority of Texas voters said Washington, D.C., was doing a good job. But more than 40% said the federal government did either an excellent or good job on the other points.

“The vast majority of Texans do perceive the virus as a threat, but they’re still partisan human beings, many of them, with competing concerns, perceptions of threat, perceptions of their own safety and security,” Henson said.

“If you’re a political leader, this unambiguously shows you that you will find a vast majority of Texans supporting your action if they believe your action is necessary to halt the spread of the virus.”

Governments aren’t at the front of the line for praise for responses to the pandemic. Health care professionals have the approval of 83% of voters. Local governments get good grades from 64%, followed by state government (57%), the federal government (49%), the news media (34%) and insurance companies (27%).

Most of the state’s voters think the Texas government is a good model for other states to follow. But that 58% approval hides the partisan numbers below: 89% of Republicans agree that Texas is a good model, but 56% of Democrats, who hold none of the statewide offices and who are in the legislative minority, are on the other side.

Only 23% of Texas registered voters approve of the job Congress is doing, which is an improvement over the 18% who approved in February. Most — 56% — disapprove. The feelings are bipartisan, too: 53% of Democrats and 57% of Republicans disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

The state’s two Republican U.S. senators do better than Congress, at least in Texas. John Cornyn is doing a good job, according to 38% of the voters, and a bad one, according to 36%. Ted Cruz, with 45%, is winning the favor of more voters. Fewer than that, 39%, disapprove of the work he’s doing. Those numbers are largely unchanged from previous surveys.

“There’s just not much going on at all beneath the presidential level in politics,” Henson said. “That’s what you see in the Cruz and Cornyn numbers. They’re static.”

Abbott is in better shape than the president or either of the state’s senators, with 56% percent approving of the job he’s doing and only 32% disapproving. That’s an improvement over the February poll, when 48% approved of Abbott’s performance. More than half of the Democratic voters disapprove of the job the governor is doing, but 24% say they approve.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gets good marks from 40% of voters and bad marks from 36% — numbers that are similar to what voters have said in previous UT/TT polls.

“Patrick’s numbers haven’t moved very much, but there has been a big uptick of disapproval in two groups, particularly from independents,” Blank said. “The other key group was registered voters over 65.”

Between the last UT/TT Poll in February and now, Patrick made national news when he suggested “as a senior citizen” that saving the economy was more important than responding to the coronavirus.

In the February UT/TT Poll, 29% of voters over 65 disapproved of the job the lieutenant governor was doing; now, it’s 37%, up 8 points. Among independent voters, the swing was even larger, from 30% disapproval in February to 43% in the April survey.

Speakers of the Texas House are generally less well known to the general public, and Dennis Bonnen’s ratings are confirmation: 20% approve and 24% disapprove of the job he’s doing, 28% neither approve nor disapprove, and another 28% didn’t register an opinion. Bonnen isn’t seeking another term in the House and will be replaced as speaker when the Legislature convenes in January 2021.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s most prominent medical experts on the coronavirus, gets relatively high marks from Texas voters, with 54% saying they have a favorable opinion of him and only 15% saying they have a negative one. That leaves almost a third who have a neutral impression, or none at all, of the immunologist who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Bolstering hospitals is popular. Releasing prisoners isn’t.

Most of the things the Texas and local governments have done to address the pandemic are favored by strong majorities of registered voters, but not all of them:

  • Establishing additional hospital facilities to meet anticipated needs, 85% approval;
  • Closing public schools, 83%;
  • Requiring travelers from other cities and/or states with outbreaks to self-quarantine if they come to Texas, 83%;
  • Prohibiting the size of gatherings to 10 people or less, 80%;
  • Requiring Texans to stay at home except for essential activities, 77%;
  • Restricting in-person religious services of more than 10 people, 74%;
  • Closing state parks and recreational facilities, 68%;
  • Suspending the operation of businesses determined to be “nonessential,” 66%;
  • Postponing the May 2020 runoff elections, 55%;
  • Prohibiting health care providers from performing abortions, 48%;
  • Releasing some nonviolent offenders awaiting trial in county jails, 44%.

Resistance to those responsive measures is relatively light, with notable exceptions for abortion and criminal justice, two issues that were separating partisans long before the pandemic began. There and elsewhere in this survey, the pollsters found a public willing to accept strong responses to the pandemic.

“To the extent that some people are saying Republicans are beating down the doors of their houses ... there is no evidence of that in this poll,” Henson said. “There’s not evidence of resisting serious measures.”

Coronavirus is the biggest problem facing us, but that’s not unanimous

One third of Texas voters say the coronavirus/COVID-19 is the most important problem facing the country, while 12% say political corruption/leadership is most important and another 10% put the economy at the top of their concerns.

Republican and independent voters were more likely than Democrats to put the economy on the list; 14% of each have that as the most important problem, compared with 4% of Democrats. But both Republicans and Democrats put the pandemic atop their worries for the country.

The pandemic also topped the list of most important problems facing the state, at 32%. Nothing else was in the double digits. But Republicans in Texas haven’t abandoned their perennial concerns of border security and immigration, with 28% naming one or the other as the top problem facing the state, while 27% say the virus is the top problem. Among Democrats, 40% chose the coronavirus as the most important problem facing Texas.

Voter attitudes on immigration remain static, with 39% saying the U.S. admits too many immigrants, 29% saying the country admits the right amount and 19% saying too few are admitted. Forty-four percent of white voters said too many immigrants are admitted into the U.S., a sentiment shared by 37% of Hispanic voters and 26% of black voters.

Almost half of Texas voters agree with the statement, “Undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States should be deported immediately.” That 49% agreement and 43% disagreement tracks closely with the last several UT/TT Polls. And the partisan differences are similar to those on legal immigration: 75% of Republicans agree with immediate deportation, while 46% of independent voters and 18% of Democrats agree. So do 53% of white voters, 39% of black voters and 38% of Hispanic voters.

Voters’ overall mood

In spite of the pandemic, 39% of Texas voters think the country is headed in the right direction, while 52% think things are on the wrong track. A strong majority of Republicans — 69% — say the U.S. is on the right track, while 86% of Democrats say it’s going in the wrong direction. Independents leaned toward the Democrats on the question: 60% say the country is going in the wrong direction.

Voters’ assessment of the state has slipped since the February UT/TT Poll. Then, 48% thought the state was on the right track and 37% thought it wasn’t; now, 43% are upbeat and 43% are downbeat. With Republicans in the state’s high offices and in the legislative majority, 71% of Republican voters say the state is on the right track; 73% of Democrats and 49% of independent voters say Texas is on the wrong track.

The economy has plunged, and so has voters’ assessment of it. Only 21% say the national economy is in better shape than it was a year ago; 64% say things are worse now. In the pre-pandemic poll in February, 48% said things were better than the previous year and only half as many said the economy was worse.

The voters say the same thing, more or less, about the state economy: 22% say it’s better than it was a year ago, and 54% say it’s worse. It’s worth noting that a dramatic drop in oil prices came after the poll was closed.

Asked about economics in their own families, 28% of Texans say they are better off economically than they were a year ago; 34% say their finances are about the same, and 35% say things are worse now.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from April 10-19 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100% because of rounding.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Reference

University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, April 2020 - Summary

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Reference

University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, April 2020 - Crosstabs

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