Governor Abbott Remains Strong, Ted Cruz Slips Slightly in Texans’ Job Approval Ratings

In addition to its focus on Texans’ views of the presidential election, the University of Texas / Texas Politics Project Poll asked for assessments of the state’s exclusively Republican leadership. As the political class in the state has already begun looking towards the 2017 legislative session, and even the statewide elections in 2018, there have been small but notable shifts in voters’ estimations of their elected leaders’ job performance. Given the Republican Party’s dominance of state government and all statewide offices, the most meaningful competition has increasingly occurred among these leaders, leading to some inevitable degree of comparison.  Below, 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 (June 2016)
  Overall Among Republicans
Greg Abbott +11 +65
Dan Patrick 0 +45
Joe Straus -4 +17
Ted Cruz -18 +39
John Cornyn -11 +19

Governor Greg Abbott remains the most popular state-level official in Texas. Abbott’s job approval among Republicans is 72 percent, with only 7 percent disapproving of his performance as governor. This result landed right in the middle of ratings that have fluctuated between 69 and 74 percent in our polling since he took office. His approval rating is 70 percent or higher among conservatives and both Tea Party and non-Tea Party Republicans. His strong numbers among Republicans translate into a positive public estimation overall: statewide, 42 percent approve of his job performance while 31 percent disapprove, which makes him the only statewide official in net positive territory with all Texas voters. Statewide, Abbott’s moves to maintain his position with the conservative base, from his response to Operation Jade Helm to his call for a national Constitutional convention, have been accompanied by a slight erosion in his overall job approval in the last year – 46 percent approved and 26 percent disapproved in June, 2015 – but this appears to be driven almost entirely by Democrats. (Speaking of the Constitutional convention idea floated in Abbott’s recent book Broken But Unbowed, this proposal doesn’t seem likely to boost his numbers significantly on its own merits – we have some data on this in the second wave of results to be released tomorrow.)

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Approve strongly20%
Approve somewhat22%
Neither approve nor disapprove19%
Disapprove somewhat10%
Disapprove strongly21%
Don't know8%

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Approve strongly2%13%39%
Approve somewhat10%21%34%
Neither approve nor disapprove21%20%16%
Disapprove somewhat15%17%4%
Disapprove strongly45%22%3%
Don't know6%7%5%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve strongly2%37%43%
Approve somewhat8%34%33%
Neither approve nor disapprove19%16%13%
Disapprove somewhat15%5%4%
Disapprove strongly48%4%6%
Don't know7%4%1%

Senator Ted Cruz also earns high ratings from Republicans, though his involvement in the crowded and often combative presidential primary campaign has cost him some popularity. Cruz’s numbers in Texas have been stellar since he rose to prominence during the 2012 campaign that put him in the Senate, but his approval rating has dropped from 71 percent in October 2015, to 64 percent in February 2016, to 55 percent in this most recent poll. The campaign appears also to have exposed him more to Texans predisposed to have a dim view of him – his overall favorability rating has dropped ten points in the same period as more Democrats have become more familiar with him. And while Cruz enters the summer of 2016 still a well known and popular figure in Republican circles, exposure in the presidential race appears to have cooled previously red hot views of him among state Republicans. Among all Texans, 25 percent approve while 43 percent disapprove, for a net approval of -18. This is a hard number to use in declaring yourself a favorite son from your state.

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Approve strongly18%
Approve somewhat17%
Neither approve nor disapprove13%
Disapprove somewhat12%
Disapprove strongly31%
Don't know9%

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Approve strongly1%11%36%
Approve somewhat9%12%24%
Neither approve nor disapprove12%20%12%
Disapprove somewhat11%13%13%
Disapprove strongly59%38%8%
Don't know7%6%8%

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s repeated attempts to stay in the public eye in ways that attract Republican support appear to be yielding some measured success. The Lt. Governor has asserted himself both on high visibility issue like gay marriage and transgender access to public facilities, as well as expressing a willingness to pitch in on presidential campaigns, first for Ted Cruz and more recently for Donald Trump. Showing signs of a successful of strategy, his June 2016 job approval rating among Republicans, 54 percent, was the highest he’s received in the four polls in which we’ve asked – and an increase of 7 percentage points since February. All his time spent in front of cameras courting conservatives has also increased his share of negative views among Democrats, too, though this is unlikely to pose much of a worry to Patrick unless Democrats start voting en masse in the GOP primary. And while this is no doubt good news for Patrick, it won’t be lost on anyone in either of their offices that Patrick’s job approval is still 18 points lower than the Governor’s among Republicans – and 37 percent of Texans still express no opinion about him. Overall, his net approval is zero, with 31 percent approving and the same share disapproving.

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Approve strongly12%
Approve somewhat19%
Neither approve nor disapprove24%
Disapprove somewhat8%
Disapprove strongly22%
Don't know15%

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Approve strongly3%9%22%
Approve somewhat7%13%32%
Neither approve nor disapprove21%30%24%
Disapprove somewhat11%12%4%
Disapprove strongly45%22%5%
Don't know13%14%13%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve strongly2%18%30%
Approve somewhat6%31%38%
Neither approve nor disapprove17%29%18%
Disapprove somewhat12%7%3%
Disapprove strongly49%6%6%
Don't know14%9%6%

Speaker Joe Straus remains where he’s been for most of his speakership: largely unknown to most of the state, with strong job approval from Republicans who know who he is. Among Republicans, 30 percent approved of the job Straus is doing, 13 percent disapproved, and 57 percent don’t express an opinion either way. For all of the fights against him and his allies in the Texas House, his rating is even in positive territory with Tea Party identifiers: 30 percent assess his job performance positively, 20 percent disapprove. His net job approval among non-Tea Party Republicans is +24.

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Approve strongly3%0%7%
Approve somewhat9%11%23%
Neither approve nor disapprove27%33%32%
Disapprove somewhat14%5%8%
Disapprove strongly23%21%5%
Don't know24%29%24%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve strongly3%8%4%
Approve somewhat9%24%26%
Neither approve nor disapprove24%39%32%
Disapprove somewhat15%4%11%
Disapprove strongly27%4%9%
Don't know23%21%18%

Over in a different political shadow, three-term Senator John Cornyn received mediocre ratings from Republicans, but remains (probably) blissfully off the radar for a large share of Texans. Republicans typically shower him with faint praise, and in the latest poll his job approval numbers showed signs of a slight decline after a campaign season spent largely ducking the presidential primary, including attempting to avoid direct commentary on fellow-Senator Ted Cruz’s candidacy. Among Republicans, Cornyn pulled a 40 percent job approval rating with 21 percent disapproving and 39 percent expressing no view. For context, the 39 percent with no opinion is slightly more than the 37 percent no opinion/don’t know for first-term Lt. Governor Patrick, a lot more than the 20 percent for Senator Cruz, and a lot less than Speaker Straus’ 57 percent. Cornyn’s job approval rating among Tea Party Republicans was 27 percent, with 41 percent disapproving. Among Tea Party identifiers, Cornyn’s job approval was 3 points lower than Speaker Straus (who’s at 30/20), though it was 22 points higher than Congress – which Tea Party Texans gave a 5/81 approve/disapprove rating.

For more results from the June 2016 UT/Texas Politics Project Poll, see the Latest Poll page.  For detailed information about the poll's methodology, see the polling archive entry for June 2016.