Texans approve of Trump’s job performance but have questions about his character, UT/TT Poll says

More than half of the state's voters think President Donald Trump is doing a good job, but they're not as pleased with some of his character traits, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

 Illustration by Emily Albracht/The Texas Tribune

If you ask registered voters in Texas about the job performance of the people they’ve elected to high office, the top two names on their list are President Donald Trump and Gov. Greg Abbott, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

But the support is not overwhelming: 52% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing in office, while 44% disapprove. And 51% said Abbott is doing a good job, while 31% disapprove of the governor’s work.

James Henson, who runs the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin and co-directs the poll, said Abbott’s approval is at a high point. “He has done more to maximize the office of governor, more than his detractors give him credit for. He’s had a pretty good run generally.”

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No other person or institution on the list broke 50%. But while Trump topped that list, voters had plenty to say about his traits. A slight majority (51%) said Trump is competent, and 50% said he is knowledgeable. Voters are split 49% to 48% over whether the president is a strong leader. Half of the voters said Trump doesn’t have “the temperament to serve effectively,” 51% disagreed that he “cares about people like you,” and 52% said the president is not honest or trustworthy.

Those overall numbers disguise deep partisan differences. On the honesty question, for instance, 81% of Republicans said the president is honest and trustworthy, while 91% of Democrats said he’s not. On that and other questions about Trump’s traits, independent voters sided with the Democrats, but not as fervently; 39% said he’s honest, while 56% said he’s not.

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“This isn’t good news, and it shows the continued weakness of Trump in Texas,” said Daron Shaw, professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the poll. “But if I were in his campaign looking at these numbers, I wouldn’t say we’re in big trouble in Texas. And if I were a Democrat, I’m not sure I’d spend a lot of money here.”

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is doing a good job, according to 37% of voters, compared with 34% who disapprove. Another 29% had no opinion, a relatively large number for a three-term senator who’s up for reelection in 2020. The state’s junior senator, Ted Cruz, won a close race in 2018. He gets positive reviews from 47% of voters, negative marks from 39% and neutral notices from 12%. Cruz defeated Beto O'Rourke in a close 2018 race for Senate. In 2020, Cornyn will be on the ballot.

“You have these meteors who don’t go the traditional route, who are known by everybody and hated by many” Shaw said, referring to Cruz's and O'Rourke's style of politics. “But I’d still rather be in that position than in the traditional route, where fewer people know you and half of them don’t like you. It’s clear that Cornyn has more opposition than support. None of the flash but all of the negatives.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is doing a good job according to 41% of voters and a bad one according to 31%. Dennis Bonnen, after his first session as speaker of the House, got positive marks from 25% and negative ones from 23%. More than half of the voters (52%) neither approved nor disapproved (27%), or said they don’t know (25%).

The Texas Legislature is doing a better job than Congress, according to Texas voters. The Legislature is doing a good job, 38% said. Only 18% said the same of Congress. And while 29% said they don’t approve of the work being done by the Legislature, 60% said the same about Congress.

The Legislature’s numbers are markedly better now than they were at the end of the 2017 legislative session. A UT/TT Poll at the time found 33% of voters giving lawmakers high marks, while 42% gave them low ones.

“This time around, the headline issues seem to actually mirror what the public is actually interested in,” Shaw said. “And they were on the right side: more money for schools and don’t jack up my property taxes.”

Asked how Robert Mueller “is handling the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election,” 37% said they approve and 39% said they do not approve. Among Democrats, 56% said they approve of Mueller’s work; among Republicans, 57% disapprove. Independents were split almost evenly, with 30% approving and 32% disapproving.

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The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from May 31-June 9 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.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin 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.