Texas voters are feeling down about the state and national economies and pessimistic about the country's general direction, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.
Fifty-five percent of respondents said the national economy is worse than it was a year ago. That figure includes 25% of Democrats, 51% of independents and 80% of Republicans. When evaluating Texas, 38% of respondents — the plurality — said the state economy is doing worse than it was a year ago. Both Republicans and Democrats shared that sentiment. Twenty-one percent of respondents said the state economy is doing better than a year ago, and 34% said it is about the same.
The data indicates that Texans are still reeling from the economic fallout of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to Joshua Blank, research director for the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.
“When it comes to evaluations of the state economy, Democrats and Republicans view it equally negatively relative to a year ago,” Blank said. “It just reflects the reality on the ground here, that no political posturing can paper over, which is the fact that we’re still recovering from the economic consequences of the pandemic. And that has hit everybody regardless of your partisan affiliation.”
About one in three Texas voters said their personal economic situation is worse now than it was a year ago. Just 20% indicated being better off, and 43% said they were doing “about the same.”
Pluralities of Texas voters across racial groups reported they were doing “about the same” economically compared to a year ago. That evaluation included 43% of white respondents, 51% of Black respondents, 43% of Hispanic respondents and 61% of Asian respondents. Considering the pandemic significantly impacted people of color, Blank said the high levels of “about the same” responses are “almost equivalent” to a negative rating.
“The political context here is we’re not in a state of ‘the Texas miracle.’ This is not 2012, when we’re sitting here pounding our chests saying, ‘Hey, Texas is fine,’” Blank said, referring to Texas’ relative resilience after the Great Recession. “You can’t look at these data and say, ‘Yeah, we’ve come out of the pandemic stronger.’ Or that we’re even out of the pandemic as far as all of its consequences are concerned.”
More Texas voters than not said they think the state is headed in the wrong direction. Forty percent of Texans said the state is headed in the right direction, while 48% said the state is on the wrong track.
Evaluations of the country’s direction were even worse. The United States is on the wrong track, according to 70% of Texas voters, compared with just 20% who said the country is moving in the right direction. Those evaluations were the worst since a UT/TT survey in June 2016.
Even among Democratic respondents, the evaluations were bad, despite their party controlling Congress and the White House. The plurality, 45%, indicated the country is headed down the wrong track.
“A lot of it is an erosion of positive attitudes among Democrats towards [President Joe] Biden and towards the general economic national conditions,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “The state environment is going to be heavily conditioned by the national environment… that’s another thumb on the scale for Republicans going into 2022.”
Texas voters were not unified about the biggest problems facing the state and country.
Fifteen percent of respondents said “political corruption/leadership” was the most important problem facing the country, and 12% said the coronavirus was the most important problem.
One-fifth of respondents said Texas’ biggest problem is border security, and 16% said it’s immigration. Those figures were driven almost entirely by Republican respondents, 39% of whom said border security was most important and 29% of whom said immigration.
The survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted online from Oct. 22-31. The margin of error was +/- 2.83 points.
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