Ask Texas voters how they think things are going, and the answer, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, is a familiar one: A salute to Texas and a raspberry for the country.
About two-thirds of Texans think the country is on the wrong track; only 22 percent think it’s on the right track right now. But asked about the state, 42 percent say it’s on the right track and 40 percent say it’s on the wrong track.
What you think depends on where you stand, and those views are built on partisan foundations. Among Democrats, 47 percent think the country is on the right track and 36 percent think the opposite. Among Republicans, only 4 percent think the country is going the right way, while 91 percent think it’s going the wrong way.
“Republicans are in the active process of listening to and mobilizing behind their candidate, and given that Donald Trump’s motto is what it is [“Make America Great Again”], then it follows that the right-track numbers are low with them,” said Jim Henson, head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the poll.
Flip from the Democratic president to the Republican governor, and the voters’ attitudes flip with you. Most Texas Republicans — 61 percent — say the state is on the right track, but only 26 percent of Democrats say so. And where 58 percent of Democrats say the state is on the wrong track, only 23 percent of Republicans say so.
More than a third of Texans feel left behind by changes in the economy, while nearly half said they don’t feel that way. Rural Texans were more likely to feel left behind (44 percent) than urban (31 percent) and suburban voters (34 percent). Voters under the age of 45 were less likely to feel isolated by economic changes than their elders.
“It’s one of those areas where you see evidence of the cleavage that people have been talking about during this election,” Henson said. “It’s more severe in the Republican Party than in the Democratic Party, but where you really see it is in the difference between college-educated Republicans and non-college-educated Republicans."
And there is a big difference, too, between Trump voters, 42 percent of whom said they feel left behind, and Clinton voters, only 30 percent of whom feel that way.
“The goal is to get at people who can no longer compete,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. “The numbers that we get are probably 20 points better than they are nationally.”
Most voters said the national economy is the same or better than it was a year ago, and large majorities said the same about the state and their own family’s economic standing. While few said they were a lot better off economically than a year ago, about one in five said each of those economies — national, state and personal — is “somewhat better” now.
Not everyone agreed on those questions. Two in five voters said the national economy is “somewhat” or “a lot” worse off than it was a year ago, and a sizable number said the same of the state’s (24 percent) and their personal economic standing (27 percent).
Political corruption/leadership leads Texas voters’ list of the most important problems facing the country, followed by national security/terrorism and the economy. Immigration and border security lead the state list, followed by political corruption/leadership, education and the economy.
“If nobody frames politics in a particular way, it’s kind of under the skin, but when people have really begun to talk about this, it will snap to the surface,” Shaw said. “It’s stunning how people respond to it. It’s reflective of the way the political conversation is going. I think it could be higher if a candidate was really pushing it.”
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Oct. 14 to Oct. 23 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Among likely voters — those who said either that they are certain to vote or that they have voted in “every” recent election — the margin of error is +/- 3.16 percentage points (n=959). Numbers in charts might not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.
This is one of several stories on the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Last week: The race for president; what sort of voter fraud Texas voters fear in November’s election; and what Texas voters think about various state and federal officeholders and institutions. Also today: Issues dear to some of the state’s top officials.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.