First Takes and Some Bonus Data Points from the First Wave of October 2017 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll Results

The Texas Tribune published the first wave of results from the October 2017 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll Thursday, with 3 more days of nuggets to come. Amidst trying to keep up with the Texas Tribune's phased roll out, we've put together a few observations from the first day of results, plus a few tidbits of data from the crosstabs. (We’ll release the entire set of crosstabs and the usual files next week after the Tribune rollout is complete.)

Texas Republicans still support Donald Trump, but not with the intensity Democrats bring to opposing him. This pattern is somewhat evident in Trump’s job approval numbers among partisans. Among Republicans, Trump earns 79 percent job approval with 15 percent disapproving, while among Democrats he earns 92 percent disapproval. Further, while 47 percent of Republicans “approve strongly” of President Trump, 84 percent of Democrats “strongly disapprove”. But the intensity mismatch is even more pronounced when it comes to issues. We asked Texans to assess how Trump handled thirteen recent and ongoing issues. A majority of Texas Republicans approved of his handling of every subject, ranging from a low of 57 percent on “white supremacists” to a high of 87 percent on how he handled “hurricane damage in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.” The pattern is a good one for Trump, but Democrats were even more forceful in their disapproval. Trump scored only single-digit approval ratings on all but one of the issues, starting at 4 percent on four different subjects. The only score to reach double-digits was an outlier, but nothing to necessarily Tweet home about: 20 percent of Texas Democrats approved of how he handled the aftermath of Harvey, too (though 57 percent still disapproved). If you’re a Democrat looking to mobilize the base, this is good news, but the generally high job approval and issue ratings for Trump among Republicans means the Democrats should still expect difficulty persuading folks to crossover, at least as of now.

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is a strong leader?782
is competent?777
is knowledgeable?877
cares about people like you?473
is honest and trustworthy?468
has the temperament to serve effectively as president?562


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Approve strongly3%31%47%
Approve somewhat2%24%31%
Neither approve nor disapprove3%9%6%
Disapprove somewhat8%10%7%
Disapprove strongly84%25%8%
Don't know1%1%1%

That message delivered about Speaker Joe Straus by the Lt. Governor and the Governor after that special session was received loud and clear by their target audience.  While Straus still remains largely unknown to the Texas electorate overall, with 49 percent unable to offer a positive or negative assessment of his job performance <insiders, insert “Laney Rule” reminder here>, tea party attitudes took a negative turn in the wake of a special session in which both the Governor and Lieutenant Governor trained their ire on the Speaker for the session’s perceived failures. Prior to the session, 44 percent of Tea Party identifiers approved of the Speaker’s job performance while 28 percent disapproved; after the session, 25 percent approve and 44 percent disapprove. While Straus’ only currently announced challenge for Speaker’s gavel doesn’t necessarily hail from the Tea Party wing of the GOP spectrum, it is among these voters that Straus’ detractors have most often sought to sow divisions for the Speaker. It seems to work among a narrow band of voters (about 17 percent of the electorate chose to identify with the Tea Party), but this is too small a slice, even of the primary electorate to conclude that the shift will have any impact in the upcoming elections (both back in San Antonio and in the Legislative chamber in 2019) – or even whether it will be durable.

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve strongly1%8%12%
Approve somewhat15%27%32%
Neither approve nor disapprove19%31%19%
Disapprove somewhat16%7%11%
Disapprove strongly27%5%17%
Don't know23%21%9%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve strongly3%9%4%
Approve somewhat17%30%21%
Neither approve nor disapprove28%34%21%
Disapprove somewhat15%5%11%
Disapprove strongly20%4%32%
Don't know17%18%13%

Those post-special session messages hurt the legislature, too. The special didn’t do the Texas Legislature any good in the eyes of the public either – including the same Republicans who have updated their attitudes towards the Speaker. In the wake of the regular legislative session, with grumbling in the air in the Senate, Tea Party Republicans nonetheless expressed the most satisfaction of the Legislature of any group, with 75 percent approving. Fast forward to October, and that approval rating has dropped 23 points to (a still respectable) 52 percent. Tea Party Republicans can be forgiven for feeling short changed – they were promised an awful lot (#20for20). (And if you think the average voter was going to distinguish between the House and the Senate in an approval item, you probably enjoy getting in Tweet wars with Scott Braddock.) 

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve strongly2%21%34%
Approve somewhat5%38%41%
Neither approve nor disapprove14%21%12%
Disapprove somewhat17%10%6%
Disapprove strongly54%4%5%
Don't know8%7%2%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve strongly3%11%5%
Approve somewhat7%35%47%
Neither approve nor disapprove20%24%13%
Disapprove somewhat20%14%14%
Disapprove strongly41%3%11%
Don't know10%12%10%

Greg Abbott’s ability to act like the governor in the wake of Harvey helped him avoid some of that negative fallout from the session. While almost everyone took something of a hit among the same segment of Republicans in the wake of the special session, Abbott’s share of that was significantly smaller (and statistically insignificant overall), while his overall job approval numbers actually ticked up slightly thanks to...Texas Democrats and self-identified liberals. Among Democrats, his job approval increased 5 points from 10 percent to 15 percent (not the beginning of some amazing turnaround, but, hey, it is a 50 percent increase in approval). Among liberals, his approval numbers ticked up from 7 percent to 12 percent.

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Approve strongly27%
Approve somewhat21%
Neither approve nor disapprove14%
Disapprove somewhat11%
Disapprove strongly22%
Don't know5%

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Approve strongly3%24%49%
Approve somewhat11%21%30%
Neither approve nor disapprove16%16%12%
Disapprove somewhat17%16%3%
Disapprove strongly47%14%2%
Don't know5%10%2%

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Approve strongly5%10%50%
Approve somewhat7%23%29%
Neither approve nor disapprove11%26%10%
Disapprove somewhat16%14%6%
Disapprove strongly57%19%2%
Don't know4%8%4%

For all the talk and magazine covers during the session about Dan Patrick setting the agenda and being the most powerful man in Texas, etc., his public position hasn’t improved dramatically since June, though he has nothing to be too unhappy about (?). His job approval in the most recent UT/TT poll stood at 36 percent, with 31 percent disapproving, and 33 percent unable to make a positive or negative judgment. This is remarkably similar to polling going back to June of last year, when 31 percent each approved or disapproved of his job performance, with 39 percent unable to register an opinion. The Lt. Governor and his advisors can claim a 5-point increase in overall approval and another tick up in name recognition, but still aren’t making much of an impression on a third of the electorate. However much the Lt. Governor is fated to remain in the Governor’s shadow in the eyes of the public, Patrick has displayed an impressive ability to move a narrow and active sector of his party in the direction he wants. He’s aided by a governor who isn’t going to let Patrick get to his right, and so finds good reason to cooperate on Patrick's issues, but who has also proven pretty adept at claiming those issues just enough to prevent Patrick from elbowing him out of the spotlight, either. (Obviously, the relationship between the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker is, how shall we say, complicated.)

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Approve strongly16%
Approve somewhat20%
Neither approve nor disapprove19%
Disapprove somewhat7%
Disapprove strongly24%
Don't know13%

Bonus data points, Friday afternoon version:  

We’ve been asked: were Republicans as reflexively negative about Democrat Obama as Democrats are about Republican Trump? Overall, pretty much. From one year ago. (If you think this isn’t representative, see a few dozen results here.) 

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Approve strongly51%4%1%
Approve somewhat35%28%5%
Neither approve nor disapprove8%13%5%
Disapprove somewhat2%9%9%
Disapprove strongly3%44%80%
Don't know1%1%0%

Among Tea Party identifiers, 20 percent say the country is more united since Donald Trump was elected president.

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
More united3%16%20%
More divided92%46%36%
The same5%34%41%
Don't know/no opinion1%4%2%

From the character trait battery on Donald Trump: Cares about people like you, by race.

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Don't know8%12%9%

Republican approval of Congress: 16 percent.

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Approve strongly2%0%1%
Approve somewhat6%9%15%
Neither approve nor disapprove13%17%17%
Disapprove somewhat24%19%25%
Disapprove strongly51%51%39%
Don't know4%4%2%

“No, really, we think the new media is important to democracy in the U.S.”

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Very important72%40%36%
Somewhat important16%25%27%
Not very important4%10%13%
Not at all important2%18%17%
Don't know/no opinion7%7%8%

“But these guys right now? Sheesh.”

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People like you43%17%7%
People in powerful positions34%68%80%
Don't know/no opinion23%15%12%

What Russian interference? They’re not treading on us.

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve strongly3%32%57%
Approve somewhat1%24%13%
Neither approve nor disapprove3%24%13%
Disapprove somewhat6%5%5%
Disapprove strongly85%8%8%
Don't know1%8%5%

“After being a member of the AARP for so long, it’s nice to be reminded of my youth.”

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Approve strongly14%13%25%32%
Approve somewhat10%14%14%16%
Neither approve nor disapprove8%16%9%13%
Disapprove somewhat11%8%4%4%
Disapprove strongly48%44%46%33%
Don't know9%5%2%2%

"I have seen the future of the Democratic Party, and his name is...wait, I know it, just a, wait, don't tell me."

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Very favorable21%1%2%
Somewhat favorable13%7%3%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable14%17%18%
Somewhat unfavorable3%10%6%
Very unfavorable3%14%12%
Don't know/no opinion46%52%59%

"That Rocket Man thing had me listening to Elton John on Pandora for a WEEK."

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Approve strongly2%32%52%
Approve somewhat4%18%23%
Neither approve nor disapprove5%8%7%
Disapprove somewhat8%8%6%
Disapprove strongly80%30%9%
Don't know2%3%3%