A pre-4th of July preview of a new UT/Texas Politics Project Poll

New UT/Texas Politics Project poll finds Trump leading Biden by 4 in Texas amidst dour views of the American economy and declining concern about the COVID-19 pandemic

Documents (pdf):   Summary of previewed results   Crosstabs

Going into a grim July 4 weekend defined by a resurgent COVID-19 in Texas, a new University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll finds most Texans acutely aware of the hobbled economy and a country limping along on the wrong track. Yet amidst this dark view of the trajectory of the country, Republican partisans continue to view President Trump with the same devotion given him prior to the eruption of the country's multiple current crises, with Trump holding onto a 4-point lead in the presidential race with Joe Biden. This post previews Texans’ views of the President and their assessments of the overall state of the country captured in the poll, which was conducted June 19-29. More results covering a range of topics including the coronavirus pandemic, race, policing, and assessment of the states elected leaders will be released after the holiday weekend. Links to all results and graphics published so far can be found on our latest poll page.

As the United States grapples with a worsening pandemic, a sputtering economy, a reckoning with persistent racial inequities, and signs of rampant institutional dysfunction, Texans show signs of becoming increasingly dour in their assessments of the country. The current poll finds more evidence of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic downturn have exerted a powerful impact on Texans' assessments of the macrolevel environment. Yet Texans’ views of Donald Trump remain largely unchanged from those held prior to the upheavals of 2020, a testament to the powerful effects he has on both his devotees and his detractors.

The presidential race in Texas

The University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll of Texas voters finds President Donald Trump holding a four-point lead over former vice-president Joe Biden among registered voters. With just under five months to go before Election Day, 48 percent of those polled preferred Trump, with 44 percent choosing Biden. 

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categoryTotal
Donald Trump48%
Joe Biden44%
Haven't thought about it enough to have an opinion8%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Donald Trump3%41%91%
Joe Biden93%27%5%
Haven't thought about it enough to have an opinion4%32%4%

This poll is the latest in a series of surveys conducted in Texas that found the incumbent president holding onto a single-digit advantage over Biden. Trump won Texas’ electoral votes in 2016 when he defeated Hillary Clinton by a margin of just under nine percentage points. The poll suggests the Increasing electoral competitiveness in Texas, evident in a trend of declining Republican victory margins in statewide races over the last two elections. As with most polls in the spring and summer of election years, this one should not be taken as predictive of the outcome in November. Months of campaigning in an electoral environment more unpredictable than any in recent memory remain. It would also be wise to remember the premature reports of the demise of Trump’s candidacy through the Summer and Fall of 2016.

Texas assessments of Trump's job performance

Views of Donald Trump’s job performance have fluctuated within a narrow band, and remain seemingly impervious to fundamental change in the environment. The president’s job approval rating dropped slightly between April and June: 46% of Texans approved of the job he’s doing as president in the most recent poll, with 48% disapproving. In an April UT/Texas Tribune Poll using the same methodology, 49% approved, 45% disapproved.

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categoryTotal
Approve strongly32%
Approve somewhat14%
Neither approve nor disapprove5%
Disapprove somewhat6%
Disapprove strongly42%
Don't know1%

While this most recent poll finds a slight decline in Texans’ assessment of the president’s overall job performance, assessments have remained remarkably consistent in Texas over the duration of his presidency. This is largely a result of the durable support the president enjoys among Texas Republicans, who seem to be unaffected by factors we would normally consider determinative, like a flagging economy, or an out-of-control pandemic. 

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categoryApproveDisapproveNeither/Don't know
February 201746%44%11%
June 201743%51%7%
October 201745%50%6%
February 201846%46%8%
June 201847%44%8%
October 201848%45%6%
February 201949%45%6%
June 201952%44%5%
October 201947%48%5%
February 202045%48%7%
April 202049%45%6%
June 202046%48%6%

 

The poll found 86% of Texas Republicans approving of the job Trump is doing as president; 62% approved strongly. Among Democrats, only 5% approved of his performance and 93% disapproved – 87% strongly disapproved. 

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Approve strongly2%22%62%
Approve somewhat3%14%24%
Neither approve nor disapprove2%12%5%
Disapprove somewhat6%16%3%
Disapprove strongly87%34%5%
Don't know0%2%1%

One of the factors likely driving Trump’s persistent inability to cross the 50% job approval threshold in Texas despite the devotion of the lion’s share of GOP voters is the erosion of support among independent voters. Trump’s net approval ratings among true independents, who made up 12% of the June sample, was -14 (36% approve/50% disapprove). This is a sign of significant decay: His highwater mark among Texas independents was 55% in October 2017, as the graphic below illustrates. While independents voters have rarely played an important role in statewide elections in Texas, increasing competitiveness in some statewide races as well as in competitive legislative and congressional districts makes their attitudes potentially more important, despite what research suggests is their relative lack of interest in, and attention to politics. (In the Trump/Biden presidential head to head, 41% chose Trump, 27% Biden, and 32% said they hadn’t thought enough about it to have an opinion. That last undecided number clearly illustrates how different independents are from anyone likely to be reading this.)

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PollApproveDisapproveNeither/Don't know
February 201739%37%24%
June 201747%41%11%
October 201755%35%10%
February 201849%37%13%
June 201843%45%12%
October 201839%43%17%
February 201946%37%17%
June 201946%39%15%
October 201941%51%8%
February 202036%47%17%
April 202034%47%18%
June 202036%50%14%

More specific policy assessments of Trump’s job performance showed similar patterns, with some variations in different issue areas. 

As has been the pattern during his presidency, Trump received his highest marks for his handling of the economy: 50% approved of the job he’s doing while 42% disapproved — statistically unchanged from April polling. While the last few months have seen an economic crisis on par with the Great Depression, assessments of his handling of the economy have barely moved from where they were in polling we conducted a year ago. In the June 2019 UT/Texas Tribune Poll, 52% approved of Trump’s handling of the economy, while 37% disapproved. [*link: https://texaspolitics.utexas.edu/set/donald-trump-job-approval-handling-economy-june-2019]

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categoryTotal
Approve strongly36%
Approve somewhat14%
Neither approve nor disapprove7%
Disapprove somewhat8%
Disapprove strongly34%
Don't know2%

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categoryTotal
Approve strongly36%
Approve somewhat16%
Neither approve nor disapprove8%
Disapprove somewhat7%
Disapprove strongly30%
Don’t know2%

As a group, Republicans are overwhelmingly positive about Trump’s handling of the economy: 91% approve, with 70% saying that they strongly approve. Democrats are about as lopsidedly negative, with independents almost evenly divided.   

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Approve strongly2%28%70%
Approve somewhat4%16%21%
Neither approve nor disapprove9%10%3%
Disapprove somewhat13%12%2%
Disapprove strongly69%29%4%
Don't know2%6%1%

The praise was fainter for the president’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and race relations. In June polling, 44% approved of the president’s handling of the coronavirus, slipping from 48% in April, with disapproval increasing from 45% to 49%. Democrats were nearly unanimous in their intensely negative assessment of the president: 86% strongly disapprove of Trump’s handling of the response to the pandemic. Republicans were just as unanimous, though their approval was less strong: 54% strongly approved of the president’s largely dismissive response, joined by 28% who somewhat approved. 

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categoryTotal
Approve strongly27%
Approve somewhat17%
Neither approve nor disapprove5%
Disapprove somewhat6%
Disapprove strongly43%
Don't know1%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Approve strongly2%16%54%
Approve somewhat4%17%28%
Neither approve nor disapprove2%12%6%
Disapprove somewhat6%12%5%
Disapprove strongly86%38%6%
Don't know1%6%1%

Asked about his handling of race relations, 41% of Texans approve of the president’s job performance, 50% disapprove. Among Republicans, 78% approve how Trump’s handling of race relations, including 53% who strongly approve; 93% of Democrats disapprove, including 89% who disapprove strongly. 

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categoryTotal
Approve strongly27%
Approve somewhat14%
Neither approve nor disapprove5%
Disapprove somewhat5%
Disapprove strongly45%
Don't know3%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Approve strongly2%17%53%
Approve somewhat3%15%25%
Neither approve nor disapprove2%8%8%
Disapprove somewhat4%7%6%
Disapprove strongly89%42%7%
Don't know1%12%2%

Sorting these responses by racial and ethnic demographics, Trump's handling of race polarizes white Texans, half of whom approve (33% strongly), while 42% disapprove (39% strongly). There is no such polarization among black and Latinx Texans: 80% of black Texans disapprove of Trump’s handling of race, 75% strongly, as do 57% of Latinx Texans – 47% strongly.

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CategoryLean DemocratNot very strong DemocratStrong Democrat
Approve strongly1%2%2%
Approve somewhat5%3%1%
Neither approve nor disapprove3%1%1%
Disapprove somewhat1%8%4%
Disapprove strongly89%84%91%
Don't know1%2%1%

Texas views of the national landscape

While Texans’ views of Trump have remained largely consistent, their assessments of the national economy continue on a downward trajectory since the onset of the pandemic and the accompanying economic crisis. Only 17% of Texans said the national economy is better off than it was a year ago, a decrease of 31 percentage points since the February 2020 UT/Texas Tribune poll. In the same period, the share of respondents who said the economy was “a lot worse off” than a year ago increased from 8% to 41%.  

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categoryTotal
A lot better off6%
Somewhat better off11%
About the same10%
Somewhat worse off29%
A lot worse off41%
Don't know3%

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categoryTotal
A lot better off26%
Somewhat better off22%
About the same25%
Somewhat worse off16%
A lot worse off8%
Don't know3%

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categoryTotal
Right direction30%
Wrong track62%
Don't know9%

Texans’ overall assessments of whether the country is headed in the right direction or on the wrong track also turned more negative in the same period, though less sharply. In June, only 30% said that the U.S. is headed in the right direction, with 62% saying things are headed off on the wrong track. In February, 40% of Texans said “right direction” and 49% said “wrong track.”

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PollRight DirectionWrong Track
October 200935%59%
February 201031%56%
May 201027%62%
September 201026%63%
October 201025%64%
February 201126%59%
May 201124%63%
October 201114%75%
February 201228%61%
May 201225%61%
October 201231%58%
February 201329%62%
June 201328%60%
October 201320%69%
February 201425%63%
June 201423%65%
October 201425%65%
February 201526%59%
June 201523%64%
November 201522%68%
February 201622%66%
June 201618%70%
October 201622%67%
February 201739%49%
June 201734%54%
October 201729%61%
February 201839%50%
June 201841%47%
October 201842%49%
February 201939%53%
June 201940%50%
October 201937%54%
February 202040%49%
April 202039%52%
June 202030%62%

In a sign that the COVID-19 pandemic receded as a problem in in the minds of Texans even as the state has become a global hot spot for the accelerated spread of the virus, the share of Texans who said that the coronavirus is the most important problem facing the country declined from 33% in April UT/Texas Tribune polling to only 18% in June polling (though still enough to top the list of most important problems). Political corruption/leadership was the second most selected problem (15%), followed by the economy (8%). The share of those who cited the coronavirus/COVID-19 as the most important problem dropped among Democrats (from 40% to 23%), Republicans (from 23% to 15%) and independents (from 28% to 16%).

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Coronavirus/COVID-1923%16%14%
Political corruption/leadership23%17%8%
The economy3%13%12%
Health care11%8%4%
Moral decline1%3%12%
The media0%2%10%
Race relations8%1%3%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Coronavirus/COVID-1940%28%28%
Political corruption/leadership15%9%9%
The economy4%14%14%
Health care11%8%4%
Immigration1%6%9%
Unemployment/jobs3%4%4%

The decline in the salience of the virus in the eyes of Texans was a sign of a complex set of attitudes toward the pandemic and the response of individuals and institutions to the worsening situation in Texas and much of the United States. The poll also included several questions on these subjects, as well attitudes toward race and policing that have dominated the agenda since the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May. Results from these questions and others on the poll will be released Monday July 6 at 10 am Central time at the Texas Politics Project website.

The poll surveyed a sample of 1200 self-declared registered voters in Texas June 19-29, 2020. The margin of error of the poll was +/-2.83%, (3.28% adjusted for weighting). Data was collected over the internet by YouGov. More detailed methodological information about how the poll was conducted is contained in the summary document for the results released today.