New UT/Texas Politics Project Poll: Most Texans look to Republican leaders to resolve differences, deliver on major priorities

Poll Summary (pdf)
Crosstabs (pdf)
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The latest University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll finds large majorities of Texans saying that it’s important for the legislature to improve the reliability of the state’s energy grid and water supply while reducing property taxes – even as disagreements among the state’s Republican leadership about how to accomplish some of these goals, particularly property tax reduction, but also grid reliability, continue to boil over in public.

The poll reveals much less agreement and more partisan division in opinions about what the legislature needs to accomplish in other policy areas, and in response to specific policy proposals, especially on social and cultural issues that continue to roil politics across the nation, including abortion, transgender rights, and education.

As gun violence in Texas makes national headlines in the aftermath of another mass shooting in Texas over the past weekend, significant majorities continue to support widely discussed, but legislatively moribund, limits on gun access: 76% supported raising the legal age to purchase any firearm from 18 to 21 years of age, while 72% supported the concept of what are commonly known as “red flag laws,” in which courts may require a person determined to be a risk to themselves or others to temporarily surrender guns in their possession. Raising the age limit on gun purchases was supported by 91% of Democrats, and a smaller, but still majority, share of Republicans, 64%. Similarly, 64% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats supported the concept of a red flag law.

Multiple bills designed to create these types of gun restrictions have been introduced in both legislative chambers, but none have made more than incremental progress in the legislative process.

Asked to assess a list of legislative priorities publicly declared by the state’s leadership, Texas voters expressed the broadest support for a combination of familiar infrastructure priorities like ensuring the reliability of the energy grid and water supply, and increasing funding for school safety measures, as well as for the high-profile campaign promise made by Republicans in the 2022 campaign to reduce property taxes.

The following priorities were judged “extremely” or “very” important goals to accomplish during the legislative session by more than 60% of respondents, including at least a plurality of both Republicans and Democrats:

The same battery revealed less consensus amidst sharp partisan and ideological disagreement about what social policies the legislature should try to accomplish.

  • In the aftermath of the near-total ban on abortion in Texas following legislation passed in the 2021 session and the Supreme Courts' Dobbs decision overturning Roe v Wade, 46% found it extremely (32%) or very important (14%) to expand legal access to abortion in Texas, while 37% found it not very or not at all important. Party divisions were especially sharp, though neither Republicans nor Democrats are unanimous in their views. Among Democrats, 78% found expanding abortion access either extremely (59%) or very important (19%) for the legislature to accomplish, while only 8% found it not very or not at all important. Among Republicans, 18% thought it was either extremely or very important to expand abortion access, while 67% said this was either not very important (13%) or not important (54%).

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Extremely important59%35%9%
Very important19%11%9%
Somewhat important11%9%10%
Not very important4%7%13%
Not important4%27%54%
Don't know/No opinion2%12%6%

  • Amidst the national rise in the invocation of “parental rights” as a rallying cry for providing parents with more awareness of, and influence over, curriculum and health care in public schools, 59% of voters said giving parents more oversight of their children’s education was extremely or very important, including 79% percent of Republicans, but also a significant, if modest, share of Democrats, 41% (which constituted a plurality compared to the 36% who found it not very important or not important).
  • A plurality, 43%, said that it was not very or not important for the legislature to “prohibit books in public school libraries determined to be harmful or inconsistent with local community values,” while 37% deemed such efforts either extremely (20%) or very important (17%). A narrow majority of Republicans (51%) thought it important to prohibit books in this context (30% extremely so, 21% very), while nearly two thirds of Democrats thought such prohibitions are either not very important (9%) or not important (56%).

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categoryTotal
Extremely important20%
Very important17%
Somewhat important13%
Not very important10%
Not important33%
Don't know/No opinion7%

In another familiar result, 59% said it was very or extremely important for the legislature to increase funding for border security operations, including 87% of Republicans (63% said this was extremely important; 24%, very important). One third of Democrats said the same, while 39% said it was not very important or not important.

The poll also asked Texans about their support or opposition to 16 more specific policy proposals that have received attention from political leaders, advocates, and in sustained media coverage, whether or not they are declared priorities of the state’s elected leadership.

The five proposals in this battery receiving the broadest range of support are a study in contrasts.

  • Prohibiting local governments from using public money to pay lobbyists or organizations to represent their interests before the legislature is a plank of the Republican Party platform, and was a priority of conservative activists and organizations last session. The poll found 79% of voters supportive of “prohibiting local governments from using public money to pay lobbyists or organizations,” with only 10% in opposition. As the lopsided topline number suggests, while support among Republicans was nearly universal (86%), only slightly smaller majorities of Democrats (77%) and independents (74%) expressed support for a proposal that has received little public attention, or much public defense from its targets. A bill that would curtail the hiring of lobbyists by government, Senate Bill 175, has already been passed by the Texas Senate.
  • Another long discussed measure passed by the Texas House on March 29 that would eliminate the “tampon tax” on maternal care and feminine hygiene products was supported by a bipartisan majority in the poll: 78% overall, 74% of Republicans, 87% of Democrats, and 63% of independents.
  • Another policy proposal with broad support has also been percolating in the legislature long before the 88th session gaveled in, though has generally been opposed by Republican legislators and statewide leadership. The poll found 73% of voters supportive of expanding Medicaid eligibility for low-income adults and children, with only 13% expressing opposition. Support from Democrats was nearly unanimous (91%), alongside support from smaller majorities of Republicans (64%) and independents (62%).
  • The poll also found substantial support for a more targeted increase in Medicaid benefits originally passed last session by the Texas House: 73% of voters supported providing low-income Texans with 12 months of Medicaid coverage after the birth of their child, including 61% of both Republicans and independents and 89% of Democrats.
  • Rounding the list of the five most broadly supported measures, 76% supported raising the legal age to purchase any firearm from 18 to 21 years of age, including 91% of Democrats, but also 64% of Republicans and 82% of independents.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Strongly support70%36%22%
Somewhat support21%28%39%
Somewhat oppose4%9%17%
Strongly oppose1%8%12%
Don't know/No opinion4%19%11%

Two other proposals received support from at least 70% of Texas voters:

Four proposals were supported by fewer than half of Texas voters:

  • Amidst well-funded efforts to expand casino gambling in Texas, 49% of voters supported the broad proposition to expand legal casino gambling, with 43% opposed. Identical pluralities of Republicans and independents supported expansion (46%), while a majority of Democrats expressed support (52%). However, a nearly equal share of Republicans, 40%, said that they opposed an expansion of casino gambling.
  • Prohibiting by-mail voting for voters over the age of 65 unless they have a medical condition elicited views more polarized along partisan lines. Overall, 46% supported and 43% opposed reducing access to the ballot box among seniors, with Republicans predominantly supportive (70% vs. 21% in opposition) and both Democrats (24% support/68% opposed) and independents (24% support/50% opposed) largely opposed.
  • Phasing out tenure at Texas’s public universities was supported by 45% of voters and opposed by 27%. Two-thirds of Republicans, 66%, supported the idea, which was on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s list of legislative priorities, while 14% opposed it. The proposal elicited support from 31% of Democrats while the plurality,42%, were opposed. Independents were split 29% in support, 22% in opposition with the plurality having no opinion of an employment practice and policy intervention that is also likely not very bright on the radar of most voters.
  • Legalizing online betting was the only proposal that received a net-negative response from the electorate (i.e. more voters opposed it than supported it): 38% supported, 41% opposed. Opposition was strongest among Republicans – half were opposed while about a third (34%) supported expanded online betting. A narrow plurality of Democrats supported it, 41%, while 35% were opposed.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Strongly support23%30%21%
Somewhat support29%16%25%
Somewhat oppose14%11%13%
Strongly oppose16%20%27%
Don't know/No opinion17%24%14%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Strongly support20%24%13%
Somewhat support21%12%21%
Somewhat oppose14%16%19%
Strongly oppose22%16%31%
Don't know/No opinion22%32%16%

In addition to the extensive batteries on Texans’ views of legislative priorities and response to current policy proposals, the poll also included more detailed assessment in several policy areas, including education, abortion, gender, gun safety, and DEI and ESG policies.

Education

The poll asked Texas voters whether they thought each of a set of policies being considered by the legislature would improve, hurt, or have no impact on the public education system in Texas.

Clear majorities thought that three of the eight proposals tested would improve public education:

As capitol observers speculate on the outcome of hotly contested legislative efforts to use state funds to subsidize parents who want to send their children to private schools, 47% of voters said creating that “creating a voucher, educational savings account (ESA), or other school choice program” will improve public education, while 26% said it would hurt the public education system; 10% said it would have no impact while 17% have no opinion. The belief that a voucher/ESA program would help public schools is higher among Republicans (63%) than among Democrats (31%) with a plurality of the latter, 45%, saying it would hurt public schools. February 2023 polling found only 8% of voters saying that creating a voucher, ESA, or school choice program should be the legislature’s top priority this session, including only 14% of Republicans.

With the exception of giving parents the right to review instructional materials, proposals associated with recent attempts to limit what students learn or read about in public schools received mixed assessments, a reflection of sharp party differences on such policies — and to some extent, the target of those policies.

  • A plurality, 46%, said “limiting the extent to which public school teachers can talk about gender identity and/or sexual orientation” would improve public education, while 30% said it would hurt. Almost three-quarters of Republicans (73%) said such limits would improve public education, while only a little more than a fifth of Democrats (22%) agreed (and more than half, 54%, said it would hurt public education).
  • Texans were much more closely divided on “limiting the extent to which public school teachers can talk about race and/or racism,” which was the subject of a bill passed in the previous session which still hovers over curriculum discussions in K-12 and higher education in the current session: a noticeably lower 39% thought such limits would improve public education while a nearly equal share, 37%, said such limits would hurt public education (11% said they would have no impact). Among Republicans, 60% said such limits would bring improvements – only 21% of Democrats agreed, with nearly two-thirds (65%) saying it would hurt public education. Very few said they would make no difference (7%, compared to 15% of Republicans). The plurality of Black (45%) and Hispanic (40%) Texans said that such limits would hurt public education.
  • More Texans thought “removing books from public school libraries determined to be ‘harmful material’ or inconsistent with local community values” would hurt (40%) public education than thought it would improve it (36%), though a majority of Republicans (55%) did expect it would be an improvement, with 20% saying it would hurt. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats (65%) thought removing books from libraries  would hurt public education along with the plurality of independents (33%).

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categoryTotal
Will improve public education36%
Will hurt public education40%
Will have no impact on public education13%
Don't know/No opinion11%

Mass shootings and gun safety

An item focused on probing attitudes about what factor voters ascribe the most blame for school shootings to found “insufficient restrictions on gun ownership” the most common response (24%)  followed by “insufficient mental health resources for students,” “poor enforcement of existing gun laws,” and “poor parenting,” each chosen by 11%.  Combined, more than one in three Texans cite insufficient gun restrictions or insufficient enforcement of existing laws as the primary cause of school shootings.

As in responses to previous items probing voters’ beliefs about the causes of school- and mass shootings, there were vast partisan differences. Nearly half of Democrats (45%) cited gun laws as the factor most to blame, while only 8% of Republicans did so. There was no comparable degree of consensus on a single factor among Republicans: the most frequent responses were “poor parenting” (16%), followed by insufficient mental health resources, insufficient school security, and violence in popular culture, each of which was chosen by 13%. “Insufficient law enforcement training for responding to mass shootings” and “school building design” ranked at the bottom of the responses, at 3% and 2%, respectively.

Since a largely similar item was last asked in June of 2018, the share of Texas voters saying either insufficient gun laws, or insufficient enforcement of current gun laws are the factor most to blame in school shootings increased from 23% of Texas voters to 36% of Texas voters, including growth among Democrats (43% to 59%), independents (12% to 31%), and Republicans (5% to 14%).

The poll asked about two specific policy proposals related to gun violence and gun safety, red flag laws and raising the legal age for purchasing a firearm from 18 to 21 years of age, as discussed in the opening section above.

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categoryTotal
Strongly support57%
Somewhat support19%
Somewhat oppose9%
Strongly oppose11%
Don't know/No opinion5%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Strongly support78%46%42%
Somewhat support13%16%22%
Somewhat oppose3%12%12%
Strongly oppose2%12%19%
Don't know/No opinion3%14%5%

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categoryTotal
Strongly support48%
Somewhat support24%
Somewhat oppose9%
Strongly oppose9%
Don't know/No opinion10%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Strongly support71%34%34%
Somewhat support17%17%30%
Somewhat oppose5%10%12%
Strongly oppose1%17%16%
Don't know/No opinion7%22%8%

Abortion

The April 2023 UT/TXP poll repeated a battery of questions first asked in April 2022 in response to the state’s severe curtailment of abortion access in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision to assess voters’ preference for, or opposition to, further legislation.

Overall, a plurality of voters expressed opposition to laws designed to prevent women from accessing abortion in states where it remains legal (51% disapprove; 23% approve); penalizing companies that cover travel or other related expenses for abortion access (45% disapprove; 35% approve); dedicating more resources to the state’s abortion ban (44% disapprove; 33% approve); and preventing women from receiving abortion medication through the mail (44% disapprove; 35% approve). A near majority, 49%, said that they approved of laws designed to expand access to abortion services, while 33% said that they disapproved.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Approve strongly10%8%18%
Approve somewhat8%5%10%
Neither approve nor disapprove5%20%24%
Disapprove somewhat6%5%16%
Disapprove strongly67%46%20%
Don't know/No opinion4%16%12%

Texas’ Democratic voters were overwhelmingly in favor of expanding access (79% approve; 10% disapprove), while at least two-thirds were in opposition to further enforcement mechanisms. Republican views were significantly more mixed. While 58% disapproved of any efforts to expand legal access to abortion, nearly a quarter (24%) approved of such efforts. Slim majorities supported other efforts to restrict access by increasing resources to enforce the ban (50%), preventing women from receiving abortion inducing medications through the mail (54%), and penalizing companies that provide support for out of state abortion access (51%), with approximately one in five Republican voters opposed to such efforts. Preventing women from traveling out of state to receive an abortion in a state where it remains legal saw the least consensus, with 28% of Republicans expressing approval, but 36% expressing disapproval.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Approve strongly64%32%12%
Approve somewhat15%11%12%
Neither approve nor disapprove8%7%10%
Disapprove somewhat3%10%13%
Disapprove strongly7%21%45%
Don't know/No opinion3%19%7%

Border security and immigration

Border security and immigration retained their perennial status at the top of the list of most important problems facing the state, fueled by the subject’s dominance of the issue landscape as viewed by Texas Republicans.

In response to an open-ended question about what issue should be the legislature’s top priority in the current session, immigration and border security were the most frequently cited issues (22%), fueled by the overwhelming predominance of the issues among Republicans: 44% of whom cited some aspect of immigration and/or border security as their top priority for the legislature, leaving all other policy areas in single digits (inflation finished a distant second,at 8%). A similar pattern was evident in the same open-ended item in the preceding February 2023 UT/TxPP Poll.

Asked how important it is for the legislature to increase funding for border security operations, 59% of voters said it is extremely (37%) or very important (22%), while only 20% said it is not very (8%) or not important (12%). Republicans were close to unanimous in their support of funding such an increase: 63% said it is extremely important and 24% said it is very important; only 2% said it is not very important, and 1%, not important.

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categoryTotal
Extremely important37%
Very important22%
Somewhat important18%
Not very important8%
Not important12%
Don't know/No opinion4%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Extremely important15%24%63%
Very important18%23%24%
Somewhat important25%12%10%
Not very important16%6%2%
Not important23%21%1%
Don't know/No opinion3%13%0%

DEI and ESG

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categoryTotal
A lot20%
Some29%
Not very much29%
Nothing at all23%

Efforts to reign in environment, social, and governance (ESG) policies influencing the decisions of investment firms and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies at state institutions, especially universities, have been at a constant simmer since before the legislature convened, with the latter making the Lieutenant Governor’s list of priority legislation.

When it comes to ESG and DEI policies, voters are, on the whole, largely unaware of either. Only 13% said that they had heard “a lot” about ESG policies at investment firms (13% of Democrats, 17% of Republicans), while only 20% said the same of DEI policies (14% of Democrats, 25% of Republicans). Overall, though largely ambivalent (unsurprising given the lack of exposure), Texans expressed slightly positive views of ESG (32% positive, 28% negative) and DEI (35% positive, 32% negative) policies.

Democrats expressed significantly more positive views of both (48% for ESG and 56% for DEI policies) than did Republicans, among whom 48% said they held a negative view of ESG policies (19% positive) and 54% said they held a negative view of DEI policies (19% positive).

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Positive view48%14%19%
Negative view9%27%48%
Don't know/No opinion43%59%33%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Positive view56%17%19%
Negative view9%32%54%
Don't know/No opinion35%52%27%

Gender identity

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categoryTotal
Yes63%
No25%
Unsure12%

Two identical questions asked one year apart find largely consistent views among the Texas electorate on the relationship between sex and gender, with 63% of Texans saying that “the sex listed on a person’s original birth certificate should be the only way to define gender,” unchanged from April 2022

Texas’ Republican voters are nearly unanimous in their view that gender is defined by a person’s original birth certificate (89% vs. 5% who disagree), while Texas Democrats continue to be less homogenous in their views, with 49% disagreeing that birth sex is the only way to define gender; a third of Democrats (33%) said that gender should only be defined by an original birth certificate.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Yes33%60%89%
No49%15%5%
Unsure17%26%5%

The partisan patterns in these foundational beliefs about gender identity are evident in response to specific legislation proposed in the legislature. 

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categoryTotal
Strongly support45%
Somewhat support13%
Somewhat oppose9%
Strongly oppose20%
Don't know/No opinion12%

Despite the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges extending the right to same-sex marriage throughout the U.S., Texans continue to express ambivalence towards the right. Overall, 44% said that same-sex marriage should be legal in Texas while 42% said that it should not be legal. Nearly a quarter of partisans took atypical views, with 22% of Democrats saying that same-sex marriage shouldn’t be legal in Texas and 23% of Texas Republicans saying that it should be legal.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Yes, should be legal68%44%23%
No, should not be legal22%30%62%
Don't know/No opinion10%26%15%

2024 politics

Donald Trump remains overwhelmingly popular among Texas Republicans, even as the field for the 2024 GOP nomination continues to expand. From among a list of six Republicans currently declared or expected to run for the GOP nomination, Donald Trump received favorable views from 78% of Texas Republicans, with only 16% holding an unfavorable view. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis finds himself in a strong position to take on the former president, with 73% of Texas Republicans holding a favorable view of DeSantis, compared to only 10% with an unfavorable view.

While the extent of favorable GOP attitudes toward DeSantis is notable given that he is the governor of another state who has not run for national office, two other potential candidates received largely positive reviews, even if their overall presence in the GOP electorate is less pronounced. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott was viewed favorably by 46% of Republicans and unfavorably by only 6%, while former South Caroline Governor and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley was viewed favorably by 46% of Republicans and unfavorably by 17%.

Favorability Ratings Among Texas Republicans
(April 2023 University of Texas / Texas Politics Project Poll)
  Favorable Opinion Unfavorable Opinion
Donald Trump 78% 16%
Ron DeSantis 73% 10%
Tim Scott 46% 6%
Nikki Haley 46% 17%
Mike Pence 41% 36%
Vivek Ramaswamy 26% 8%

Former vice president Mike Pence received some of the most negative views among the candidates and potential candidates tested, with 41% of Texas Republicans holding a favorable view of the former Indiana Governor, but a surprisingly large share, 36%, holding an unfavorable view.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Very favorable4%2%15%
Somewhat favorable15%10%26%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable13%29%22%
Somewhat unfavorable16%19%19%
Very unfavorable48%28%17%
Don't know/No opinion4%11%2%

Views of Texas political leaders

With the campaign season a speck in the rearview mirror and the legislature reaching its crescendo, views of Texas’ statewide leaders have settled into comfortable, if not overwhelmingly positive, patterns.

  • Governor Abbott has received a string of net-positive assessments of his job performance beginning in August of last year, and net positive in all but one of the 8 surveys conducted between February 2022 and the release of the April 2023 poll. Today, 46% approve of the job Abbott is doing, while 41% disapprove. Among Republicans, 79% approve, 9% disapprove; while among Democrats, 74% disapprove with 19% approving.

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    PollApproveDisapproveNeither/Don't Know
    November 201542%29%28%
    February 201641%29%30%
    June 201642%31%27%
    October 201642%33%25%
    February 201745%33%23%
    June 201745%38%16%
    October 201748%33%19%
    February 201846%31%23%
    June 201847%36%18%
    October 201852%32%17%
    February 201951%32%17%
    June 201951%31%18%
    October 201952%28%21%
    February 202048%34%18%
    April 202056%32%13%
    June 202049%39%13%
    October 202047%40%14%
    February 202146%39%15%
    March 202145%43%11%
    April 202143%45%13%
    June 202144%44%11%
    August 202141%50%9%
    October 202143%48%10%
    February 202244%42%15%
    April 202247%41%13%
    June 202243%46%12%
    August 202246%44%10%
    October 202247%44%9%
    December 202249%41%8%
    February 202346%43%12%
    April 202346%41%12%
    June 202347%42%12%
    August 202345%45%10%
    October 202349%40%10%
    December 202348%41%11%
    February 202453%37%10%


     
  • Lt. Governor Patrick finds himself with the job approval of 42% of Texas voters, with 36% disapproving of his job performance. This represents a slight improvement over February polling, which found only 38% of voters approving of Patrick’s job performance while 39% said that they disapproved.
  • Speaker of the House Dade Phelan finds nearly equal shares of Texans approving (26%) and disapproving (24%) of his job performance. In near mirror images, 40% of Republicans approve of the job Phelan is doing while 10% disapprove; among Democrats, 41% disapprove while 16% approve.
  • Texans remain divided on the job of Attorney General Ken Paxton, with 39% approving of his job performance (including 65% of Republicans) and 35% disapproving (including 62% of Democrats).
  • Texas Sens. Cruz and Cornyn find themselves in different positions. Cruz, facing a reelection campaign next year, has rebounded from net-negative job approval in February to net-positive territory, including 45% who approve of his job performance and 41% who disapprove. Cornyn, on the other hand, remains underwater, with 33% approving and 38% disapproving. Accounting for these differences is the relative strength of partisan views towards each. Among Democrats, 73% disapprove of Cruz compared to 57% who disapprove of Cornyn; while among Republicans, 78% approve of Cruz’s job performance compared to only 50% who hold the same view of Cornyn.

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