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The Polling Center: Texas vs. Washington?

The UT/Tribune poll results convey some very intense disapproval of political leadership.

The UT/Tribune poll results on general attitudes and policy-related questions convey some very intense disapproval of political leadership. This disapproval is most negative when respondents consider national political leaders and policy, but there is also clear dissatisfaction with leadership at home. The bottom-line is that Texas is home to some very intense dissatisfaction with the national political leadership that emerged from the 2008 general election.

The mood in the state remained generally negative in the survey, as has been the trend for the last year. At a broad level, 59% of those surveyed said the US was on the wrong track in response to the standard "right direction/wrong track" item.  Fifty-nine percent said the US economy is worse off than a year ago, and 43 percent said they were personally worse off than a year ago. The negative assessment of the country has eased some since our June survey, when 69 percent said the country was worse off.  The "better off” assessments edged up from only 11% in June to 24% in October.  But the most intensely negative response offered was the most frequent one we received, with 36 percent of the negative assessments rating the economy "a lot worse off." Personal economic assessments were virtually unchanged between June and October.

Intensely negative assessments, particularly when respondents were asked to respond to national matters and elected officials, recurred throughout the survey.  President Obama's ratings differed little from his performance in the general election, with 41 approving and 52 disapproving of his overall job performance. The U.S. Congress job approval rating from Texans was dismal, with 71% disapproving and only 13% approving. In both of these assessments the most negative option, "disapprove strongly", was the most common choice:  44% strongly disapproved of Obama, and 49% strongly disapproved of Congress.

At the state level, where we solicited approval ratings of Gov. Perry, Sen. Hutchison, and the Texas state legislature, assessments were less negative though hardly stellar.  Gov. Perry's approval numbers were at 36% approve (10% strongly/26% somewhat) versus 44 percent disapprove (26 strongly / 18 somewhat).  Sen. Hutchison elicited comparable positives with a 39% approval rating (10% strongly / 29% somewhat), but her disapproval rating was only 27% (10% strongly/17% somewhat) with a larger share choosing the neutral option (24%) than in the govenror's case (15%).  The Texas state legislature fared much better than its counterpart in Washington DC:  31% approved of the way the Texas Legislature has been handling its job (3% strongly/28% somewhat).  It's a testament to how poorly the US Congress is viewed that they would probably be happy to have the 36% negative rating the Texas Legislature earned (15% strongly disapproving/21% somewhat disapproving).

The negative assessments of both the economic environment and political leadership were likely influenced by Texans' focus on economic problems.  When asked to identify the most important problems facing the country, 38% chose the economy and unemployment, with 15% citing federal spending and the national debt, another 15% choosing political corruption/leadership, and 13% choosing health care. No other issue registered in double digits. When asked to identify the most important state problems, the economy and employment top the list at 28% if combined, with immigration following at 19% and border security at 13%.  (The last two were considered separately due to the prevalence of predominantly drug trafficking crime in some areas of the Texas border.)

With the economy at the top of Texans' list of most important problems facing both the nation and the state, but with widespread disapproval of political executives and Congress much in evidence, we asked respondents about whether national and state governments were helping on the economic front.  When asked if the federal government was "helping to bring the economy out of recession, making harder for the economy to recover from recession, or not doing much either way," 28% thought the federal government was helping, 43% thought the federal government was making it harder, and 23% thought federal efforts were a wash.  So two-thirds either think the federal government is hurting or irrelevant. 

Interestingly enough, respondents seemed to either recognize the comparatively reduced role of state government in Texas (or perhaps just rated it less effective), but in either case, 43% thought state government wasn't having much impact, 23% thought the state was helping, and only 17% thought state government was making recovery harder.

Health care is the most prominent issue on the Congressional agenda right now, so we also elicited approval ratings related to the handling of health care by the president and the parties in Congress.  These results were also negative, and (once again) intensely so. When asked whether they approved or disapproved of "the way President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are handling the issue of health care," 58% disapproved (with 49% disapproving strongly) and 37% approved (with 13% approving strongly).  Asked about how "Republicans in Congress" are handling the issue, fifty-four percent disapproved, with only 33 approving and 12% saying they didn't know. In short, no one inside the Beltway is viewed with much affection by registered voters in the Lone Star state.

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