Most Texans believe that the country is on the wrong track but that the state is headed in the right direction, according to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll conducted this month. That said, their assessments are less negative than they were a year ago.
They remain pessimistic about the future of the national economy, however, with two in five saying "the worst is yet to come."
“If you look at the media sphere right now, with the flood of the campaign coverage, it’s hard not to get negative messaging out of that about the future,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “Part of the hook of this campaign, really for both sides, is that the future is uncertain.”
The numbers reveal strong partisan slants, reflecting what likely voters said in the survey about their strong preference for Republicans Mitt Romney in the presidential race and Ted Cruz in the race to fill an open seat in the U.S. Senate. Democrats said the country is going in the right direction — and by a wide margin. Republicans were strongly negative about the direction of the country, as were respondents who said they would join the Tea Party if it had the same standing as other political parties.
When the question turned to Texas, the partisans traded sides, with self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning respondents saying the state is going in the right direction, while Democrats and Democratic-leaners said the state is on the wrong track.
Overall, less than a third believe the country is headed in the right direction, while 58 percent said things are on the wrong track. That’s actually an improvement from a year ago, when the UT/TT Poll found 75 percent saying the country was on the wrong track. The respondents are more positive now, as they were a year ago, about the state’s direction, with 43 percent saying the state is going in the right direction while 34 percent say it’s on the wrong track.
“Almost all of the wrong-track numbers went down, and almost all of the right-direction numbers went up,” Henson said. “You get a sense that people are feeling some slight improvement in the economy and they’re feeling things going pretty well in Texas.”
About one in three believes the national economy is better off than it was a year ago, while 42 percent said it is worse, including 23 percent who said the economy is “a lot worse off” than it was a year ago. Another 25 percent said the national economy is about the same as it was last year.
They’re less gloomy about the state economy, with 25 percent saying it has improved, 21 percent saying the state economy is worse off than a year ago and a narrow majority saying it’s about the same.
Contrast that with their own economic standing: 43 percent of the respondents said things are about the same as a year ago for themselves and their families, 23 percent said they are better off and 34 percent said they are worse off than they were last year.
Their forecasts for the future are bleak. Only 23 percent expect their children to be better off economically than they are, while 41 percent said the kids will be worse off and 18 percent said they’d be about the same. On top of that, 30 percent said the worst is over for the U.S. economy, while 42 percent said the worst is yet to come. The remainder said they don’t know what’s ahead.
Most of the respondents reported pretty good control over consumer debt: 24 percent said they owe about what they can afford on credit cards and installment loans; 17 percent owe less than they can afford. Another 28 percent either have no consumer debt (12 percent) or no debt at all (16 percent). The rest are under some financial pressure, with 14 percent saying they owe a little more on credit cards and installment payments than they can afford and 15 percent saying they owe a lot more than they can afford in that kind of consumer debt.
Economic circumstances played into questions about people coming and going from Texas. Only one in four respondents said they have considered leaving the state in the last 12 months. Of those, the top reasons for that impulse were “opportunity for better jobs elsewhere,” “I want a better climate” and “to be closer to family.” Most of the respondents said they moved to Texas more than five years ago, including 54 percent who said they have always lived here. Two of those reasons played into their moves into the state: 35 percent came for jobs, and 33 percent came for family.
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 second of five stories on the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Tomorrow: How Texans feel about the issues.]