Texas Data Points from the Week in Politics - November UT/Texas Tribune Poll Edition

While a more comprehensive analysis of the 2016 nominating race awaits the public release of the data and crosstabs from the November 2015 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll next week, the weekend pause in the Texas Tribune release schedule invites a few initial observations on the first wave of results. Expect much more discussion (and evidence)  next week when the entire data set is released.

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Donald Trump27%
Ted Cruz27%
Ben Carson13%
Marco Rubio9%
Jeb Bush4%
Carly Fiorina4%
Rand Paul4%
Mike Huckabee2%
John Kasich1%
Chris Christie1%
Rick Santorum1%
Bobby Jindal0%
Lindsey Graham0%
George Pataki0%
Jim Gilmore0%
Don't know5%

1. In the trial ballots for the  2016 GOP presidential nomination contest, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are tied for the lead with 27 percent each. Trump’s ascension in the UT/TT polls tracks with his national rise since the last poll in June, conducted prior to his announcement. It also suggests the limits of the appeal in Texas of the real estate mogul turned magnate, whose net favorability rating was deeply in the negative, at 32/51, though better among Republicans at 54/31. Based on this poll and some others that have been conducted recently in the state, his Texas ceiling appears not to deviate significantly from his national one, somewhere in the mid-to-high 20’s. On the one hand, this is a good place to be – the candidates in the bottom two-thirds of the list would no doubt be quite happy to be “mired” in the mid-20s in such a crowded field. But Trump’s celebrity-level name recognition (for better or worse) doesn’t leave him much room to grow his appeal at this point. (And see the graphic below with numbers on candidates Republicans and Tea Party identifiers would NOT support.) His tie with Cruz encapsulates a scenario in which the national Trump phenomenon has collided with the entrenched presence of Cruz in Texas. Cruz seems more likely to continue to grow support in his home state: 631,000 Texas Republicans have already had the experience of voting for Cruz in a GOP primary, and 4.4 million have voted for him in a statewide election when Mitt Romney was at the top of the ticket. These are not guaranteed 2016 primary votes, but they are certainly not irrelevant.

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Very favorable16%
Somewhat favorable18%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable12%
Somewhat unfavorable12%
Very unfavorable39%
Don't know / No opinion3%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Very favorable3%29%29%
Somewhat favorable9%24%33%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable7%7%21%
Somewhat unfavorable10%13%10%
Very unfavorable68%25%7%
Don't know / No opinion3%1%0%

2. The much-vaunted field of Texas-connected candidates has been winnowed down to Cruz, who has emerged as the favorite son of Lone Star Republicans. Rick Perry is, of course, out of the race, but the sort-of-news on this front from the latest poll is that if Jeb! Bush’s campaign is to be saved, salvation doesn’t appear to lie within Texas. Bush registered only 4 percent, and can’t even be considered a fallback as he was the second choice of only 6 percent of potential Republican primary voters. Other candidates with Texas ties fared no better: Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul also garnered only 4 percent each. No one should be too surprised that this field hasn’t quite lived up to the hype or that Cruz is the only breakout candidate. Since his successful campaign against former Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Cruz has been a favorite of the conservative wing of the party, and only a freakish (statistically speaking, more or less) candidate like Trump could be expected to shake their attachment to him. None of the other Texas candidates should have been expected to pose a credible threat, save Jeb!, who now only looked credible on paper and in spreadsheets.

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DemocratRepublicanTea Party
Jeb Bush1%36%69%
Lindsey Graham1%28%62%
George Pataki1%25%55%
Chris Christie2%28%42%
Jim Gilmore1%24%49%
Donald Trump2%46%27%
John Kasich0%19%49%
Rand Paul1%30%37%
Rick Santorum2%23%31%
Mike Huckabee2%17%21%
Bobby Jindal2%21%16%
Marco Rubio1%20%17%
Carly Fiorina3%18%14%
Ted Cruz3%23%6%
Ben Carson3%12%12%

Direction of Texas Trend

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PollRight DirectionWrong Track
October 200938%39%
February 201043%37%
May 201045%38%
September 201043%38%
October 201045%37%
February 201141%41%
May 201136%48%
October 201139%43%
February 201243%38%
May 201238%42%
October 201243%34%
February 201345%39%
June 201350%32%
October 201342%39%
February 201445%35%
June 201449%33%
October 201448%35%
February 201550%30%
June 201550%32%
November 201545%36%
February 201642%37%
June 201641%38%
October 201642%40%
February 201746%36%
June 201743%40%
October 201743%40%
February 201848%36%
June 201846%37%
October 201850%35%

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PollRight DirectionWrong Track
February 201058%25%
September 201061%24%
October 201068%21%
February 201159%27%
May 201150%34%
October 201161%27%
February 201263%21%
May 201260%27%
October 201269%20%
February 201357%25%
June 201363%22%
October 201353%27%
February 201458%27%
June 201461%29%
October 201460%24%
February 201567%18%
June 201570%17%
November 201560%26%
February 201661%22%
June 201661%22%
October 201661%23%
February 201776%10%
June 201776%12%
October 201771%18%
February 201876%12%
June 201879%9%
October 201883%9%

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PollRight DirectionWrong Track
February 201026%59%
September 201029%56%
October 201017%64%
February 201121%66%
May 201113%72%
October 201117%67%
February 201226%58%
May 201216%68%
October 201226%56%
February 201325%65%
June 201331%51%
October 201323%62%
February 201426%56%
June 201428%53%
October 201426%55%
February 201531%49%
June 201527%58%
November 201527%56%
February 201631%49%
June 201626%58%
October 201626%58%
February 201716%63%
June 201711%69%
October 201715%65%
February 201822%61%
June 201815%67%
October 201817%66%

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PollRight DirectionWrong Track
February 201055%30%
September 201057%31%
October 201065%24%
February 201162%23%
May 201158%32%
October 201163%26%
February 201263%25%
May 201267%25%
October 201266%21%
February 201375%15%
June 201377%15%
October 201375%17%
February 201476%13%
June 201482%12%
October 201472%18%
February 201574%14%
June 201576%13%
November 201570%16%
February 201664%22%
June 201671%17%
October 201670%17%
February 201783%12%
June 201785%12%
October 201771%24%
February 201879%14%
June 201884%9%
90%8%

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Hillary Clinton61%
Bernie Sanders30%
Martin O'Malley1%
Lawrence Lessig0%
Don't know7%

3. Hillary Clinton’s lock on Texas is more secure than ever – don’t be distracted by Bernie Sanders’ increase since June. Yes, Sanders has cultivated a constituency in the party, especially among young and extremely liberal voters. But those groups are small subsets of the Democratic electorate in Texas. Sanders’ increase from 15 percent to 30 percent should be seen largely as an artifact of the winnowing of the Democratic field.  With Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren no longer available as hypothetical options, some Democratic votes (especially for Warren) went to Sanders – but some (including Biden votes) went to Clinton, too.  

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categoryLeaning liberalSomewhat liberalExtremely liberal
Hillary Clinton63%53%49%
Bernie Sanders28%38%50%
Martin O'Malley3%1%0%
Lawrence Lessig2%0%0%
Don't know4%8%1%

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category18-2930-4445-6465+
Hillary Clinton44%58%71%68%
Bernie Sanders47%33%23%17%
Martin O'Malley2%1%0%3%
Lawrence Lessig1%1%0%0%
Don't know6%8%6%11%

4. Among the Republicans in Texas state government, Greg Abbott remains the top dog. His approval numbers are the strongest when compared to the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker, among all Republicans,  but especially among conservatives and Texas Republicans.  One might keep this in mind when considering Abbott's endorsement in the GOP presidential nomination race; and, though it's a ways off and things could change, in the 2018 Republican primary in Texas.

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Very favorable2%37%50%
Somewhat favorable11%33%32%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable17%14%13%
Somewhat unfavorable17%7%3%
Very unfavorable45%2%1%
Don't know / No opinion8%6%1%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve strongly2%13%27%
Approve somewhat6%31%37%
Neither approve nor disapprove25%32%22%
Disapprove somewhat15%6%6%
Disapprove strongly40%3%2%
Don't know12%16%7%

5. Job approval ratings of the Lt. Governor and the Speaker suggest that Republican voters seem happy with their shepherding of the legislature. It’s not a stretch to extend this approval to the output of the 84th legislature, despite the carping of dissident elites (and, of course, Democratic leaders). Dan Patrick’s job approval ratings among conservatives and Tea Party identifiers put him in the net positive range (plus-39, plus-55, respectively), yet his is still in the classic position of a Lt. Governor. As rumors persist about him running against Abbott in the 2018 gubernatorial primary – rumors that he has flatly denied – 44 percent of Texans expressed no opinion of his job performance, including 37 percent of self-identified conservatives. He has run and won statewide and he is a major player in the legislature, but someone else is governor and gets to occupy the bully pulpit by default in a way that frequent press conferences and highly marketed interim charges won’t easily overcome.

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Approve strongly4%
Approve Somewhat16%
Neither approve nor disapprove32%
Disapprove somewhat8%
Disapprove strongly14%
Don't know25%

6. Speaker Straus remains pretty much where a Speaker wants to be: More than half (52 percent) of Texas voters have no opinion of him. Perhaps more surprising to insiders subjected to the railings of dissident Republicans targeting Straus and the perpetual clucking about challenges to his speakership, Straus is also in net positive territory with conservatives (that is, the ones who may know who he is and what he does). Reminder: The #txlege stream on Twitter is not a representative sample.

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categoryDemocratsIndependentsRepublicans
Approve strongly2%2%7%
Approve Somewhat8%8%24%
Neither approve nor disapprove30%30%35%
Disapprove somewhat12%10%5%
Disapprove strongly23%11%6%
Don't know26%36%23%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve strongly2%8%6%
Approve Somewhat10%25%29%
Neither approve nor disapprove28%36%30%
Disapprove somewhat13%3%6%
Disapprove strongly24%4%12%
Don't know23%24%17%