Poll finds Texas voters disagree on top issues and candidates

By ROSS RAMSEY, Texas Tribune

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Texas voters are casting their ballots with widely different opinions about the most important problems facing the country and the state of Texas, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

The most important issue facing the country right now is the coronavirus/COVID-19, chosen by 18% of registered voters, followed by political corruption/leadership (14%) and the economy (10%).

What’s most important depends on who’s talking, however. Among Democrats, the most important issues facing the U.S. are coronavirus/COVID-19 (29%), political corruption/leadership (20%) and health care (11%). Republicans rank problems differently: moral decline (18%), the economy (13%) and political corruption/leadership (11%).

When it comes to problems facing the state, voters’ top items are coronavirus/COVID-19 (22%) and immigration/border security (16%). But the partisan differences are great. Immigration/border security top the list for 30% of Republicans, followed by coronavirus/COVID (13%). The pandemic is the top item for 33% of Democrats, followed by political corruption/leadership (10%).

Likely voters were also asked what issue was most important to them in choosing who to support for president, an open-ended question that let voters name any issue. The resulting list was led by the economy (11%) and “removing Trump from office” (8%). Among Republicans, the economy (15%) led the list, followed by “socialism and/or communism” (12%). Democrats topped their list with removing the president (19%), followed by coronavirus/COVID-19 (11%) and health care (9%).

That informed their choices for president. The poll found that 50% support President Donald Trump, the Republican, while 45% support former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democrat. 

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How’s it going?

Texas voters are more negative about the way things are going for the country and the state than they were a year ago, the poll found.

Only 29% said the country is going in the right direction; 41% said the state is on the right track. A year ago, 37% liked the direction of the U.S. and 47% said Texas was on the right track.

Voters’ negative assessments have risen at the same time, with 62% now saying the country is on the wrong track, up from 54% in October 2019. The state’s grades are better, but not good: 44% of voters said Texas is on the wrong track, up from 35% a year ago.

Republican voters in Texas like the direction of things better than Democrats do. While 54% of Republicans think the country is on the right track, only 5% of Democrats do. A larger majority of Republicans — 70% — said Texas is on the right track; only 13% of Democrats agreed.

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The economy

Most voters said either that they and their families are economically better off than a year ago (23%) or about the same (44%). But 31% said they are worse off now than then, a circumstance reported by 37% of Hispanic voters, 31% of Black voters and 30% of white voters. More Democrats (41%) said their family economics had worsened than Republicans (19%).

In an October 2019 UT/TT Poll, 77% of Texas voters said they were economically better off or in the same place compared with the year before, and 16% said they were worse off.

“You still see partisan differences, but those partisan differences can’t erase the intensity of what people are experiencing with both the pandemic and the economy,” said James Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “It doesn’t mean the partisan filters go away, but they’ve got a lot more to contend with now.”

The same drops are repeated in economic assessments of the country and the state.

Most registered voters in Texas — 67% — said the national economy is in worse shape than it was a year ago. Another 17% said it has improved and 13% said it’s about the same. The Republican view of things is rosier than the Democratic one. Among Republicans, 28% said the U.S. economy is better than it was a year ago, while 16% said it’s about the same and 54% said it has worsened. Only 8% of Democrats said the national economy is better, while 9% said it’s unchanged and 82% said it is worse off than it was a year ago.

The state economy has improved, according to 15% of Texas voters, while 24% said it’s about the same as it was a year ago and 56% said it has worsened. Among Republicans, 25% said it’s better, 31% said it’s about the same and 40% said it has worsened. Democrats were harsher in their assessment: 6% said the economy is better than a year ago, 18% said it’s about the same and 73% said Texas is in worse shape economically than it was a year ago.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Sept. 25 to Oct. 4 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. The margin of error for results from 908 likely voters is +/- 3.25 percentage points. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100% because of rounding.