With just fourteen weeks before Election Day, a new poll of Texans shows Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Beto O’Rourke trailing incumbent Republican Ted Cruz by two percentage points—with 19 percent still undecided. This has less to do with O’Rourke surging than it does with support for Cruz underperforming.
The Texas Lyceum survey found Cruz in the lead 41 percent to 39 percent for O’Rourke, who is sitting at about the base vote level for a Democrat. But Cruz is far down. In the governor’s race, incumbent Republican Greg Abbott is leading Democrat Lupe Valdez 47 percent to 31 percent. Abbott’s position is far closer to what would be expected of a Republican statewide candidate in July of an election year. Given the 4.67 percent margin of error in the Texas Lyceum 2018 Poll (PDF), that suggests that the U.S. Senate race is a dead heat.
“O’Rourke continues to nip at Cruz’s heels, but it’s a long way to go until Election Day,” said Josh Blank, Lyceum Poll research director, in a written statement. “If this race looks different than the rest, that’s probably because it is because a strong Democratic challenger raising prolific sums of money and tons of earned media.”
Beyond the high-profile U.S. Senate race, Texas Republicans maintain comfortable leads over their Democratic opponents in every other statewide contest, according to the poll. Abbott enjoys a sixteen-point lead over Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez; Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is up over his Democratic opponent Mike Collier by ten percentage points. And Attorney General Ken Paxton is ahead of his Democratic challenger, Justin Nelson, by ten percentage points.
The numbers continue to fall in line with overall attitudes regarding the performance of President Donald Trump, with a majority of Texans polled disapproving of the 45th president’s overall performance, according to the survey of 1,178 Texas adults. They suggest that members of Congress may be held accountable for Trump’s performance, while statewide elected officials may be given a pass by voters. Eighty-five percent of those polled who identified themselves as Republicans approved of Trump’s performance in office while an equal number of those polled who identified themselves as Democrats disapproved of his performance. The worst news for Republicans is that slightly more than half of the self-identified independents disapproved of Trump.
Just one week after solid economic growth numbers were released by the federal government, 43 percent of Texans polled said they believe the economy is better off compared to a year ago. Another 34 percent said the economy is worse off and 34 percent said it is about the same. The poll was conducted between July 9 and July 26, before the latest economic figures were released.
The U.S. Senate race has been consistently tight in polling this election cycle. The Lyceum poll has Cruz ahead of O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso, by a margin of 41 percent to 39 percent, with 19 percent undecided. Cruz has a solid lead over O’Rourke with those who identified themselves as white and as likely voters on November 6, leading by a margin of 51 percent to 34 percent. But O’Rourke is proving much more popular among younger voters ages 18 to 29, leading Cruz by a margin of 50 percent to 19 percent. O’Rourke also has a significant lead among Hispanic voters—46 percent to 26 percent for Cruz—and African American voters, who support O’Rourke by a margin of 57 percent to Cruz’s 9 percent. But in each of those demographics, the challenge is turnout. Whites, particularly older whites, tend to vote in much greater percentages than younger, Hispanic,or African American voters.
The poll also showed that a majority of Texans who say they are likely to vote, 57 percent, approve of Abbott’s performance as governor, while 33 percent disapprove. Abbott’s greatest base of support comes from older white men, above the age of 65. Fifty-eight percent of those either strongly approve or somewhat approve of the governor’s performance after one term.
A second poll, from Quinnipiac University, is expected to be released later Wednesday.