Republican Mitt Romney has a commanding lead over Democrat Barack Obama in the presidential race in Texas, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. The survey of likely voters found that 55 percent support Romney while 39 percent support the incumbent. The remaining 6 percent said they support someone else.
The survey results illustrate the continuing dominance of the GOP in Texas — Republican John McCain got 55.5 percent of the Texas vote in 2008, to Obama’s 43.7 percent — and illuminate a significant gap in Texans’ feelings about national and state officeholders and government.
“At the top of the ticket, in the big marquee races, there are no surprises,” said Jim Henson, who teaches government at the University of Texas at Austin, heads the Texas Politics Project there and co-directs the poll. “We see the basic structure of the state, in terms of partisanship, pretty stable.”
Numbers in the U.S. Senate race were similar to those in the top contest, with Republican Ted Cruz holding 54 percent of the support to Democrat Paul Sadler’s 39 percent, according to the poll. John Jay Myers, the Libertarian candidate, had 3 percent, and Green Party candidate David Collins had 2 percent.
More voters want to replace their congressional representatives than want to keep them. Asked whether their own member of Congress deserves re-election, 36 percent said yes, while 43 percent of likely voters said it is “time to give someone else a chance.” The remaining 22 percent said they didn’t know.
“What you have in these results is a pretty decent idea of what a Democrat with warm blood and a pulse can get in Texas,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor of political science at UT-Austin.
The poll also asked respondents to rate the job performances of Obama, Gov. Rick Perry and Congress. A majority of Texans — 53 percent — disapprove of Obama’s work, including 44 percent who said they strongly disapprove. Another 40 percent approve of the job the president has done, 19 percent strongly so. Perry got good marks from 41 percent, including 9 percent who strongly approve of the job he’s doing, and bad marks from 39 percent, including 27 percent who strongly disapprove of the governor’s work.
Congress is flunking on this measure. Only 11 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, and only 1 percent strongly approve. Meanwhile, 69 percent gave Congress bad marks, including 43 percent of Texans who said they strongly disapprove of the job performance on Capitol Hill.
“One percent strongly approve of Congress — that’s my favorite stat in the poll,” Shaw said. “Texans really, really don’t like those guys.”
Voters’ opinions of the candidates mirror the results of the horse-race questions. For example, 52 percent of voters have a “very” or “somewhat” favorable opinion of Romney, while 41 percent have “somewhat” or “very” unfavorable opinions. Obama’s numbers were 39 percent favorable and 57 percent unfavorable. Strong opinions outnumber milder ones at this point: Romney was ranked very favorable by 30 percent and very unfavorable by 35 percent; Obama by 26 percent and 52 percent, respectively.
The numbers for the vice presidential candidates closely match those of their running mates. Republican Paul Ryan is favorably viewed by 53 percent of likely voters and unfavorably viewed by 36 percent. For Democrat Joe Biden, the favorable opinions came from 39 percent, unfavorable ones from 57 percent. And like their presidential partners, the strong opinions of the vice presidential candidates outnumbered weaker opinions.
The gap in the Senate race reveals some voter unfamiliarity with the Democrat. Sadler is viewed favorably by 23 percent and unfavorably by 14 percent, but 20 percent have a neutral opinion of him, and 43 percent said they didn’t know. Cruz’s numbers were 49 percent favorable and 29 percent unfavorable.
“Sadler has not done an enormous amount of TV, did not do an enormous amount of advertising, he didn’t have an enormous amount of money and he didn’t have an enormous amount of organization,” Henson said. “It’s hard to become broadly known around the state.”
Perry has said he would consider running for another term in 2014, and about one in five likely voters — 22 percent — said they would vote for him. Another 42 percent said they would vote against Perry, and 35 percent said they would wait and see how things develop.
Two state officials — Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott — were included in the favorable/unfavorable questions. The governor is favorably viewed by 45 percent of likely voters and unfavorably viewed by 42 percent (including 33 percent who have a very unfavorable opinion of him). Abbott, who is widely expected to run for governor, is less well-known — 29 percent have no opinion and another 23 percent said their opinion is neither positive nor negative. That said, 30 percent have a favorable opinion of the attorney general, while 19 percent view him unfavorably.
A fantasy 2014 Republican primary for lieutenant governor appears to be of more interest in political parlors than in the general public, with 38 percent saying they haven’t thought enough about the matchups to form an opinion. Another third said they won’t be voting in that GOP primary. Among the likely voters who answered, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst led the pack, with 15 percent, followed by Comptroller Susan Combs, 6 percent; state Sen. Dan Patrick, 5 percent; and state Rep. Dan Branch, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, each with 1 percent.
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 800 voters was conducted Oct. 15-21, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percentage points. Numbers in the charts might not add up to 100, due to rounding. “Likely voters” were defined as those who indicated they were “somewhat” or “extremely” interested in politics and who said they voted in “every” or “almost every” election in recent years. The margin of error for questions confined to likely voters is +/- 4.22 percentage points.
[This is the first of five stories on the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Tomorrow: The mood of the state.]