Governor Abbott (Still) Tops Texans' Evaluations of Elected Officials*

In addition to its focus on Texans’ views of the issues facing the state, the University of Texas / Texas Politics Project Poll regularly gages Texans' assessments of the state’s exclusively Republican leadership. As the state's political class readies itself for the 2018 Elections and the 2019 legislative session, there have been small but notable shifts in voters’ estimations of their elected leaders’ job performance over the last few years. Given the Republican Party’s dominance of state government and all statewide offices, the most meaningful competition has been occurring among these leaders, leading to an inevitable degree of comparison.  Based on the poll results, we look at the ratings of major Republicans in the state, noting possible changes in their trajectory where they seem potentially meaningful.

Net Approval For Statewide GOP Leadership (February 2018)
  Overall Among Republicans
Greg Abbott +15 +76
Dan Patrick -17 +60
Joe Straus +3 +11
Ted Cruz -1 +60
John Cornyn -9 +32

Governor Greg Abbott remains the most popular state-level official in Texas. Abbott’s job approval among Republicans is 81 percent, with only 5 percent disapproving of his performance as governor – a solid uptick since 2016, when his Republican approval sat at 72 percent. This increase in Republican support is offset by Democratic disapproval, resulting in Abbott's overall job approval increasing only slightly from 2016 to 2018, from 42 to 46 percent. His approval rating among both Tea Party and Non-Tea Party Republicans tops 80 percent, more than 10 points higher than two years ago. Along with Abbott's increase in positive evaluations among his own party comes increasing negative evaluations among Texas Democrats, among whom 59 percent express disapproval with the Governor, and marked increase over the course of his tenure, but expected as more Texans of both parties have become familiar with Abbott.

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Approve strongly28%
Approve somewhat18%
Neither approve nor disapprove18%
Disapprove somewhat8%
Disapprove strongly23%
Don't know5%

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Approve strongly4%23%53%
Approve somewhat8%15%28%
Neither approve nor disapprove24%28%10%
Disapprove somewhat13%10%3%
Disapprove strongly46%10%2%
Don't know5%13%4%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve strongly5%49%56%
Approve somewhat6%34%26%
Neither approve nor disapprove21%9%7%
Disapprove somewhat12%2%8%
Disapprove strongly51%3%3%
Don't know5%3%1%

Senator Ted Cruz continues to earn high ratings from Republicans, largely recovering from the 2016 presidential primary campaign and its aftermath -- but has also earned the ire of more Texas Democrats. Cruz’s numbers in Texas have been quite high among Republicans since he rose to prominence during the 2012 campaign that put him in the Senate, but his overall approval has continued to slide as Texas Democrats increasingly view Cruz as a representation of the opposing party both within the state of Texas and beyond. In June of 2016, Cruz's overall approval stood at 55 percent; since then has dropped to 40 percent as of February 2018. While 72 percent of Texas Republicans approve of the junior Senator, 73 percent of Texas Democrats disapprove of his job performance, the highest Democratic disapproval of any of the elected officials currently under examination.

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Approve strongly22%
Approve somewhat18%
Neither approve nor disapprove12%
Disapprove somewhat9%
Disapprove strongly32%
Don't know7%

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Approve strongly4%8%43%
Approve somewhat7%22%29%
Neither approve nor disapprove12%15%9%
Disapprove somewhat10%18%7%
Disapprove strongly63%22%5%
Don't know5%15%6%

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s notable attempts to stay in the public eye in ways that attract Republican support continue to yield some measured success. The Lt. Governor continued to assert himself in the lead up to and throughout the 2017 Legislative Session, spearheading issues like the bathroom bill and property tax reform. As of February 2018, 37 percent of Texans approved of the job he is doing, 33 percent disapproved, and 31 percent were unable to express an opinion. This third of voters unfamiliar with the Lieutenant Governor has been a consistent feature of his public opinion landscape. Among Republicans, 67 percent express approval of Patrick's job performance with only 6 percent disapproving. Among Democrats, disapproval stands at 61 percent, with only 8 percent approving. The notable thing for Patrick is that despite his best efforts, his name ID still lags behind his single biggest competitor in the state for the attention of the Republican electorate: Governor Greg Abbott.

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Approve strongly19%
Approve somewhat17%
Neither approve nor disapprove21%
Disapprove somewhat8%
Disapprove strongly25%
Don't know10%

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Approve strongly4%11%37%
Approve somewhat5%15%30%
Neither approve nor disapprove19%33%18%
Disapprove somewhat11%12%4%
Disapprove strongly50%12%3%
Don't know11%16%8%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve strongly3%34%43%
Approve somewhat6%29%31%
Neither approve nor disapprove17%22%11%
Disapprove somewhat10%2%8%
Disapprove strongly56%5%2%
Don't know9%7%5%

Speaker Joe Straus is retiring, and upon his exit remains where he’s been for most of his speakership: largely unknown to most of the state. Among Republicans, 33 percent approved of the job Straus is doing, 22 percent disapproved, and 46 percent were unable to express an opinion either way. Given all of the fights against him and his allies in the Texas House, it should come as no surprise that his rating have fallen with Tea Party identifiers. In June 2016, 30 percent assessed his job performance positively, 20 percent disapproved. In February 2018, 40 percent disapprove, with 28 percent approving. This flip in opinion is likely the result of the running legislative fights that have occurred among the dominant party, and between the two legislative chambers.

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Approve strongly8%
Approve somewhat19%
Neither approve nor disapprove29%
Disapprove somewhat9%
Disapprove strongly15%
Don't know19%

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Approve strongly7%9%9%
Approve somewhat18%10%24%
Neither approve nor disapprove27%36%30%
Disapprove somewhat11%11%8%
Disapprove strongly17%12%14%
Don't know20%22%16%

Three-term Senator John Cornyn receives middling ratings from Republicans, but remains (probably) blissfully off the radar for a large share of Texans. Republicans typically shower Cornyn with faint praise, with 50 percent approving of his job performance, and 18 percent disapproving. Overall, a third of voters can't offer an opinion of the Senate's Majorty Whip, with the plurality of the remainder expressing disapproval, 38 percent, compared with 29 percent approving.


*This piece is an updated examination based on an earlier blog post entitled: Governor Abbott Remains Strong, Ted Cruz Slips Slightly in Texans’ Job Approval Ratings, written June 26, 2016.