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University of Texas/Texas Tribune Polls

“Somebody else” would beat Donald Trump in Texas, but just barely, says UT/TT Poll

Given the choice between re-electing President Trump or choosing someone else, a narrow majority of Texans would like to see a change in 2020, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

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A slight majority of Texas voters would choose someone other than Donald Trump in a presidential race held right now, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

While 45 percent said they would “definitely vote for someone else,” 39 percent said they would “definitely vote to re-elect Donald Trump.” But 10 percent said they would “probably vote to re-elect Donald Trump,” and only 6 percent said they would “probably vote for someone else.”

If you count the leaners on both sides, that would be a virtual tie between Trump and an unnamed opponent.

“President ‘Else’ is doing pretty well,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “The definitely-vote-for-somebody-else is pretty solid, I think.”

The president is strong with Republicans (88 percent would re-elect) and weak with Democrats (93 percent want someone else). He’s got some work to do with independent voters. Only 24 percent would definitely vote for him while 42 percent say they would definitely vote against him.

The two Texas Democrats running (Julián Castro) or considering (Beto O’Rourke) a run for the Democratic presidential nomination have different profiles with voters — possibly because only O’Rourke has run a statewide campaign in Texas.

Only 12 percent of Texas voters have a neutral opinion or no opinion of O’Rourke, while 43 percent said they have a favorable opinion of the El Paso Democrat and 45 percent have an unfavorable impression. Four months after his narrow loss to Ted Cruz in the 2018 U.S. Senate race, 85 percent of Texas Democrats have a favorable impression of him, and 81 percent of Republicans have a negative opinion.

Castro is less well-known, though he was a member of the Obama administration’s Cabinet and is a former San Antonio mayor. Forty-two percent of Texas voters have either a neutral or no opinion of him, while 26 percent have a favorable impression and 32 percent have a negative impression. A slim majority of Democrats — 51 percent — have a favorable impression, compared with 7 percent of Republicans. Six percent of Democrats have a negative view of the candidate, while 56 percent of Republicans do.

“Congratulations. You’ve been in the Cabinet, you’ve been the mayor of San Antonio, and you’re where Beto O’Rourke was a year ago in your home state,” said Jim Henson, who co-directs the poll and heads the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “It does not make a lot of sense to me to think of Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro as peers in their home state. In terms of public opinion, they’re not even close.”

“If O'Rourke is going to run for president and we’re going to talk about who’s going to own Texas, this is a pretty good indicator,” Henson said.

Neither of the state’s two major political parties has a great reputation with all voters, 50 percent of whom register negative impressions of Democrats and 51 percent who say they have unfavorable views of Republicans. What might be more interesting is what they think of themselves. Among Democratic voters, 79 percent have a positive impression of their own party, while 9 percent have a negative one and 12 percent have none at all. Among Republican voters, the GOP gets favorable marks from 64 percent, unfavorable marks from 21 percent and no marks at all from 15 percent.

Among independent voters, 17 percent have favorable impressions of the Republican Party and 14 percent have favorable views of the Democratic Party.

Federal officeholders and institutions

Almost half of Texas voters, 49 percent, said they approve of the job Trump is doing as president, including 34 percent who said they strongly approve. Almost as many, 45 percent, disapprove, including 40 percent who strongly disapprove of his work. His numbers haven’t changed a lot over time: In our poll a year ago, 46 percent approved and 46 percent disapproved of Trump; a year earlier, in February 2017, 46 approved and 44 percent disapproved.

The partisan lines are strong. Among Democrats, 88 percent disapprove of the president, and among Republicans, 88 percent approve. Men (57 percent) approve Trump more than women do (42 percent), but the partisan differences are stronger than gender differences: 84 percent of Republican women like Trump, and only 4 percent of Democratic women do. Among men, his approval ratings are 92 percent with Republicans and 11 percent with Democrats.

Congress is still on Texas voters’ naughty list: 18 percent approve of the job that branch of government is doing, while 61 percent disapprove. The U.S. House now has a Democratic majority, but voters had Congress in about the same spot a year ago, when both the House and Senate were in Republican hands. That’s not to say things have remained the same under the surface. In the latest poll, Democratic voters gave Congress a 22 percent to 51 percent positive/negative rating; a year ago, those numbers were 7 percent to 75 percent. The party shift in Washington, D.C., had its effect on Texas Republicans, too, moving them to 15 percent to 71 percent today from a 33 percent to 49 percent rating when their party was in control a year ago.

The state’s two U.S. senators are from the same party, but their numbers are significantly different. John Cornyn, the senior senator and the one who’ll be on the ballot in 2020, gets approving marks from 36 percent of voters and disapproving ones from 35 percent; 29 percent said they either have a neutral impression or don’t have an opinion of Cornyn. Keep in mind that he’s been in statewide elected office, either as U.S. senator, Texas attorney general or Texas Supreme Court justice, since 1991.

Only 13 percent of Texas voters said they have a neutral or no impression of Ted Cruz, who won his first statewide election in 2012 and his second last year. Overall, 46 percent approve of the job he’s done in the Senate, and 41 percent disapprove.

Both senators are unpopular with Democratic voters. Only 11 percent approve of Cornyn, and only 10 percent approve of Cruz. And while both are popular with Republican voters, there’s a big enthusiasm gap. Cruz gets high marks from 83 percent of Texas Republican voters; 62 percent approve of Cornyn. It’s not that Republicans dislike the senior senator — only 13 percent said that; it’s that a quarter of them have neither a positive nor negative take on the job he’s doing in Washington.

Shaw contrasted Cornyn’s numbers with Cruz’s — especially the 21-percentage-point difference in positive impressions among the state’s Republican voters and the 29 percent who said they have no impression, good or bad, of the state’s senior senator.

“I think it’s his prominence that costs him with the other party, but his place in the establishment involves him in Republican politics that Texas Republicans are ambiguous about,” Shaw said of Cornyn.

For all that, Texas voters trust the executive branch of the federal government than either Congress or the judiciary: 33 percent chose the president and executive branch, 29 percent chose the Supreme Court and the judicial branch, and 14 percent chose Congress and the legislative branch.

Among Democrats, the preferences were judicial (37 percent), legislative (27 percent) and executive (3 percent).

Among Republicans, the preferences were executive (63 percent), judicial (19 percent) and legislative (5 percent).

Mueller and Russia

Texas voters are equally divided on Robert Mueller’s handling of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election: 39 percent approve, and 40 percent disapprove. Democratic approval was 72 percent — up from 62 percent in the pre-election UT/TT Poll last October. Republicans are steady: Only 11 percent approve and 69 percent disapprove, or about the same as in October.

Do Texans “think there was coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election”? Another split: 41 percent said yes, and 47 percent said no; 81 percent of Democrats said yes, and 84 percent of Republicans said no. Here’s a side note: Among independent voters, 29 percent said yes, up from 25 percent a year ago and up from 21 percent in the June 2017 UT/TT Poll.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Feb. 15-24 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.

The University of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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