It’s better to be a Texas officeholder than a federal officeholder in the eyes of the state’s voters, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
Congress remains unpopular with Texans — though not as unpopular as it was before the GOP took control of it and the White House. Only 26 percent of Texans approve of the job Congress has been doing, while 50 percent disapprove. Those dismal numbers mark a large improvement over the UT/TT Poll done in October, when only 10 percent approved of Congress and 68 percent disapproved.
Credit the exuberance of Republicans for the better congressional performance numbers: 43 percent approve, 30 percent disapprove and 22 percent were neutral. Democrats are not impressed: 7 percent approve, 72 percent disapprove and 18 percent were neutral.
“To take up for Trump, that’s almost all Republicans rallying around a president,” said Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the poll. “Congress’ numbers tick up quite a bit — there’s a lot of partisanship going on here.”
U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz got mildly negative grades on their job performance. Asked about Cornyn, 30 percent approve of his work and 34 percent don’t; for Cruz, 38 percent approve of his work and 39 percent don’t.
Top state officials did better in the rankings. Gov. Greg Abbott got good grades from 45 percent of Texans — including 80 percent of Republicans — and bad grades from 33 percent — including 61 percent of Democrats.
“On one hand, it’s fair to look at this and say [Abbott's] numbers are high because he’s the governor and everybody knows who he is,” said Jim Henson, who heads the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin and co-directs the poll. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean they embrace you the way they’re embracing Abbott.
“This is a case where people that are looking at the profile being struck by [Lt. Gov.] Dan Patrick and his frequent use of the media are missing the fact that Gov. Abbott has less need to do that,” Henson said. “He’s 15 points higher than the lieutenant governor and the senior senator of the state.”
Patrick had slightly more positive than negative grades, with 32 percent approval and 31 percent disapproval. But like the governor, his partisans are mostly happy: 59 percent of Republicans approve of the work he’s doing.
House Speaker Joe Straus got approving looks from 23 percent of those polled and disapproving looks from another 23 percent. Republicans were more positive: 36 percent said he’s doing a good job, and 12 percent disapprove of his work. As has been the case in previous polls, he also had the highest share of uncommitted respondents: 53 percent of Texans either had a neutral view of Straus or no view at all.
Texans’ views of even the most popular officeholders pale against their positive ratings of the military and the police. The military is viewed favorably by 76 percent of Texans and unfavorably by only 7 percent.
The police got favorable ratings from 64 percent and unfavorable ratings from 18 percent. White voters were most positive, with 73 percent saying they have favorable impressions, a view shared by 30 percent of black Texans and 60 percent of Hispanics. Among black Texans, 30 percent said they have neutral impressions of the police, while 39 percent said they have unfavorable opinions, including 29 percent who said their opinions were “very” unfavorable.
Courts and the criminal justice system got favorable grades from 40 percent and unfavorable marks from 32 percent.
And then come the various levels of government, which come out like you might expect. Only 23 percent of Texans have a favorable impression of the federal government, while 50 percent have an unfavorable one. Texas government does better, with 47 percent favorable and 28 percent unfavorable. Local government does a notch better than the state, with a matching 47 percent favorable rating and a lower 24 percent unfavorable rating.
Those results sync with the answers to a question about the most trusted branch of the federal government. The judicial branch landed first, with 36 percent, followed by the executive branch at 28 percent, followed by the legislative branch, which was most trusted by only 7 percent of Texans. Nearly a third wouldn’t commit, checking “don’t know.”
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Feb. 3 to Feb. 10 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. 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. Monday: What Texans think of the new president, and their views on the economy and the direction of the country and state. Tuesday: Marijuana and other issues, health care and on immigration. Wednesday: Education.
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.