Likely voters in Texas approve of President Barack Obama almost as much as they approve of Gov. Rick Perry, according to the third and final release of poll results from the Texas Lyceum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of civic leaders.
Since October, when the last Lyceum survey was conducted, Perry's approval rating has remained steady at 54 percent, while Obama's has increased from 47 to 51 percent. Even though Obama's handling of the national economy specifically — which is the top concern of Texans, according to Tuesday's findings — dropped to 46 percent, this percentage was eight points lower in October, at 38 percent. University of Texas Professor Daron Shaw, who conducted the poll with the assistance of University of Texas at San Antonio Professor Amy Jasperson, said the timing of the poll might be why Obama scored so high among likely voters. Taken between May 24 and May 31, the poll came three weeks after Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, which "undoubtedly increased" likely voters' support of the president.
Less popular with likely voters is the Texas Legislature, which they rated 12 points higher in October. Forty-nine percent are okay with the job the Texas Legislature is doing; 46 percent are not happy.
Likely voters' thoughts on the 2012 presidential contenders and the Republican and Democratic U.S. Senate primary are less decisive. Twenty-two percent of the 147 likely voters who said they planned to vote in the Republican presidential primary next March — out of a total of 310 likely voters surveyed — had not given enough thought to the race to say who they would support. Of the ones who had made an early choice, 16 percent favored former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 14 percent settled on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and 10 percent liked U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, best. Although Perry had emphatically declared he was not running for president at the time of the poll, 9 percent of likely voters supported him. Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty received 8 and 7 percent, respectively.
Likely voters are even more indecisive on the two U.S. Senate primary races. More than 50 percent of Republican primary voters had not devoted much thought to their choice, although Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst leads the pack of possibles at 27 percent.
Only 103 of the 310 likely voters polled said they planned to vote in the Democratic primary in March, and of those, three-fifths said they had not thought much about whom to pick for the U.S. Senate. Former Congressman Chris Bell, at 9 percent, had the most support, followed by former Texas Comptroller John Sharp at 6 percent.
These results come on the tails of findings about current hot topics in the state Legislature, including gambling, abortion and campus carry, which the Lyceum released yesterday. Some of these findings suggest that Texans and likely voters alike do not agree with the decisions the Texas Legislature has made.
The most striking disagreement is over gambling. Thirty-four percent of the 707 Texans surveyed are in support of "full-blown" gambling, and 25 percent want to see an expansion of the industry. These numbers, combined for a total of 59 percent of Texans in favor of gambling, conflict with the actions of Texas lawmakers, who have declined to allow slot machines at racetracks and Indian reservations, as well as the building of casinos in Texas' big cities and barrier islands. Jasperson suggested that the economy might be a reason why Texans in general supporting gambling more than legislators. "Perhaps the public sees gambling as an acceptable source of revenue in tough times,” she said.
Another contentious issue, abortion, split Texans and likely voters. While 62 percent of Texans and 58 percent of likely voters — those who vote regularly — support the law Gov. Rick Perry signed that requires all women to receive a sonogram before an abortion, 57 percent of Texans and 58 percent of likely voters do not approve of any measures to remove state funding from hospitals that perform abortions.
Seventy-four percent of Texans and 67 percent of likely voters are against a campus-carry proposal that would've allowed concealed handguns on college campuses. In May, state Sen. Jeff Wentworth managed to tack an amendment allowing campus carry onto a bill about education finance reform. It passed in the Senate but was stripped from the bill in the House.
Other issues that Texans and likely voters weighed in on for the Lyceum poll:
- Sixty-two percent of Texans and 60 percent of likely voters think tuition deregulation is a good idea. Forty-four percent of Texans and 43 percent of likely voters support the notion that low-income students should get financial help to offset the cost of paying for school.
- The immigration law that Arizona passed, giving state law enforcement agencies the ability to stop anyone and ask about their immigration status, is one that 51 percent of Texans and 63 percent of likely voters would like to see replicated in Texas.
- Developing wind and solar energy is a favorable investment to 83 percent of Texans and 81 percent of likely voters. Sixty-two percent of Texans and 74 percent of likely voters also support drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. But they are more divided on the issue of drilling in the Alaskan Arctic Wildlife Refuge, with 46 percent of Texans and 58 percent of likely voters okay with it.
The telephone poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent for Texans and 5.6 percent for likely voters. The results are available on the Texas Lyceum website. The Lyceum revealed survey results about education and the economy on Tuesday.