AUSTIN, Texas – If the election were held today, President Donald Trump would be the choice of 50% of likely voters in Texas while 45% prefer former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.
In the race for the U.S. Senate, incumbent Republican John Cornyn was also the choice of half of the likely voters polled, though Cornyn leads Democratic challenger M.J. Hegar by a wider margin, 50% to 42%.
“While Republican incumbents led their Democratic challengers in the two major statewide races, the single-digit margins in the presidential and Senate trial ballots illustrate how much more competitive Texas is becoming,” said James Henson, co-director of the poll and director of the Texas Politics Project at The University of Texas Austin. “Both results in the last two elections and patterns in public opinion make clear why Republicans are redoubling their efforts, and why Democrats are investing more resources in Texas, particularly in races in suburban and exurban areas of the state.”
The poll surveyed 1,200 self-declared registered voters in Texas from Sept. 25 to Oct. 4. Data was collected over the internet by YouGov. The likely voter subset of this sample included 908 voters and had a margin of error of +/- 3.25% (4.16% adjusted for weighting).
“The races do remain tight, but the most recent poll shows Republicans inching ahead among key swing groups,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and the Frank C. Erwin Jr. Chair of State Politics at UT Austin. “For example, Senator Cornyn has opened up a 26-point lead with seniors and an 11-point lead among suburbanites.”
The president’s job approval ratings showed a slight improvement in the latest poll compared with the June poll, conducted by the same research team using the same methodology: 49% of Texans approved of the job he’s doing as president and 46% disapproved, compared with 46% approving and 48% disapproving in June.
As in previous polls, views of the president showed strong partisan differences: 90% of Texas Republicans approved of the job Trump is doing as president; 63% approved strongly. Among Democrats, only 3% approved of his performance and 89% disapproved – 82% strongly disapproved.
With the economy still showing the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the spread of the disease still continuing, and the confirmation of a U.S. Supreme Court nominee still pending, no single issue dominated when Texans were asked which one issue was important to their vote in the presidential election. The top response, the economy, was cited by 11%. The second most common response, removing the president, was mentioned by 8%; and COVID-19, health care, and preventing “socialism” or “communism” were each chosen by approximately 6%, respectively.
“No one issue is dominating Texans’ attention during this election season,” said Joshua Blank, director of research for the Texas Politics Project. “Absent an issue that anchors this election and given the unique presence of President Trump at the top of the Republican ticket, Texas voters appear ready to view the contest as a referendum on the temperaments and political careers of the presidential candidates.”
In the poll, Texans also rated their approval of the job performance of Texas leadership. Some highlights include:
- Greg Abbott: 47% approve / 40% disapprove
- Gov. Dan Patrick: 37% approve / 37% disapprove
- Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen: 23% approve / 24% disapprove
- John Cornyn: 39% approve / 39% disapprove
- Ted Cruz: 46% approve / 42% disapprove
Results from the poll will initially be released on The Texas Tribune website. More results on politics and public policy will be released Monday through Wednesday next week, Oct. 12-14, including a third set of results on Texans’ attitudes about COVID-19, as well as views on policing, race, the economy and how well they expect the 2020 election to go.
The October University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll is the 41th statewide poll conducted in Texas by a team of researchers based in the Department of Government and the College of Liberal Arts at UT Austin. Results and more methodological information are available now at The Texas Tribune. For access to data sets and thousands of graphics useful for teaching and presentations, visit their polling data archive.