U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s rivals are unknown even to most Democratic voters, UT/TT Poll finds

The Democrats hoping to challenge Cornyn in the 2020 general election face a hurdle, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll: Their own voters don't know who they are.

One part of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s 2020 reelection campaign is going his way right now: According to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, his potential challengers are unknown, even to their own Democratic primary voters.

“There’s just not a lot going on in this race,” said James Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “Too many other things are going on. You have a group of candidates who have just not engaged voters and Texas Democrats [who are] not paying attention.”

That result largely mirrors a UT/TT Poll taken before September’s Democratic presidential debates of registered Texas voters who identify as Democrats: Their party’s candidates hoping for the nomination to challenge Cornyn are largely unknown, and a candidate from Central Texas — MJ Hegar, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2018 — leads the pack.

Chris Bell, a former congressman and Houston City Council member who ran for governor in 2006, is the best known of the candidates; 24% of Democratic voters say they have heard of him. Only two other candidates are known to at least 20% of their party’s voters: state Sen. Royce West of Dallas and Hegar.

Hegar, with the support of 12% of those voters, is in front of the others, as she was in the September survey. The rest of the candidates are in single digits, with Sema Hernandez (6%) and West (5%) closest behind Hegar.

The real leader in that Democratic race, with 57% of the total, is nobody; that many voters say either that they don’t know who they’ll support (16%) or that they “haven’t thought enough about it to have an opinion” (41%). Another 6% looked at the choices and would prefer “someone else.”

It’s safe to say the primary hasn’t really gelled. More than half of the Democratic voters say they are “not at all likely” to change their minds before the primary election (23%) or that they are “not very likely” to do so (31%). That leaves a large body of voters who expect to change their minds (39%) or who don’t have any opinion about that (7%).

And what about the incumbent? Voter views on Cornyn’s performance in office are divided, with 35% of voters approving his work and 34% disapproving. A relatively large number — 31% — have a neutral opinion or no opinion at all.

Among Republicans, 60% give Cornyn good marks, and 60% of Democrats give him bad marks. Independent voters are split, 30% to 29%, with 41% registering neither positive nor negative feelings about Cornyn.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Oct. 18-27 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points, and an overall margin of error of +/- 4.21 percentage points for Democratic trial ballots. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100% 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.

Reference
  • University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, October 2019 - Summary
Reference
  • University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, October 2019 - Methodology
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