Here are some things that Texans are deeply conflicted over: Ted Cruz, which college football team is best, who we want the Republican nominee for president to be, and Blue Bell ice cream. Here are some things that Texans are not conflicted over: How we feel about Barack Obama (we don’t like him), if UT and A&M should play each other gain (most definitely), who we want the Democratic nominee for president to be (Hillary Clinton), and toll roads (we actually like them). That’s the takeaway from Crosswind Media and Public Relations’ Texas Pulse Poll from September, which used a sample of 1,000 likely Texas voters to get a feel for where the state stands on divisive topics like politics, football, and ice cream.
The poll breaks down issues down by political alignment, which reveals that—among other things—there are very few topics on which liberal and conservative Texans agree. For example, a full half of conservatives identified immigration as the top issue facing the state, with the economy coming in a distant second place with 15 percent of the response. Liberals, meanwhile, are much less concerned, with only 10 percent naming immigration, which is behind health care, education and the economy, and social issues.
All of which tends to make sense: Republicans control the agenda in Texas, and they’ve largely gotten the results they want on health care, education, and social issues—but immigration and border policy, which is set by federal policy, is out of their hands. Democrats, who’ve been out of power for a generation, have watched GOP leadership move those issues away from where they’d like them to be. The economy and jobs, meanwhile—issues the legislature has little control over—have the attention of both groups.
Here’s where things get weird, though: Conservatives don’t identify the health care system as a political priority, but they sure aren’t happy with it. Two-thirds of Texas Republicans express dissatisfaction with the health care system (compared to only 38 percent of Democrats), which seems surprising. It’s likely that when people are asked “how do you feel about the state of health care right now,” though, most respondents hear “how do you feel about Obamacare,” which probably helps explain the discrepancy—”health care in Texas is not my top priority” and “I am dissatisfied with the current state of health care” aren’t necessarily incompatible statements, if you look at them through the political lens.
Not a huge surprise here: Barack Obama enjoys a 10 percent approval rating among Texas conservatives, with a whopping 74 percent feeling “very unfavorable” toward the president. And because of the rate at which Republicans outnumber Democrats in Texas, that tilts things pretty heavily in the “unfavorable” category across the board: Obama’s approval rating in Texas is at 41 percent, a full seven points lower than the national average. (We’re not sure what’s up with the 1 percent of Texas Republicans of the 3 percent of Democrats who’ve never heard of him, though.)
But it’s not all blind partisanship: Texas Republicans like Governor Greg Abbott considerably less than Texas Democrats like Barack Obama. Although 86 percent of Texas Dems approve of the President, only 77 percent of Texas Republicans have a favorable impression of the governor. (Democrats, meanwhile, feel considerably more charitable toward Abbott than their Republican counterparts do about Obama, with Abbott’s approval rating among Dems at 24 percent, compared to Obama’s 10 percent.) Interestingly, the same percentage of both conservatives and liberals are unsure how they feel about the first-term governor, with 4 percent of each group unable to decide how to answer.
Abbott is better-liked across the board than Ted Cruz, though. Abbott’s 54 percent approval rating is markedly better than Cruz’s 48 percent, and Texas Democrats despise Cruz almost as much as Republicans dislike Obama. More interesting, though, is how Cruz polarizes people in ways that Abbott does not. Fewer Texas Republicans have a favorable impression of Cruz (72 percent) than have a favorable impression of the governor (77 percent)—but his “very favorable” numbers are stronger than Abbott’s. (Democrats, meanwhile, are much more likely to deem Cruz “very unfavorable” than Abbott.) So Cruz’s support may not be as broad as Abbott’s, but the people who like the junior senator really love him, and the people who don’t friggin’ hate the guy.
The poll only asked self-identified conservatives about the GOP primary (and self-identified liberals about the Democratic candidates). With that in mind, the Texas numbers largely mirror those of the rest of the country—Donald Trump has 26 percent of the support here vs. 23.3 percent nationally, and Ben Carson is at 19 percent in Texas vs. 16.3 percent nationally. There is one crucial exception: Ted Cruz is polling at 6 percent in the rest of the country, but down in Texas, he’s the third-place candidate at 15 percent. His support seems to come largely at the expense of Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina, who are both polling at our near double digits nationally, but neither of whom can currently break 3 percent in Texas.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, does much better among Texas Democrats than she does in the rest of the country. Nationally, Clinton polls at a healthy 40.8 percent—a solid number, but not necessarily an insurmountable one. Here, though, she enjoys a whopping 53 percent of the Democrats’ support. It seems unlikely at the moment that the Democratic race for the nomination will run long enough for a Texas primary to be relevant, but if it does, Clinton should look forward to it.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, football is also a deeply divisive topic amongst Texans. This poll took place before last weekend, so the University of Texas had yet to lose its second game of the year—but still, even then, there were as many Texans who thought the unranked Longhorns were as likely to make the playoff as fifth ranked Baylor. That could mean a few things: UT fans are a massive, if delusional, group; most people who responded don’t actually pay much attention to college football; or people really don’t have much faith in Baylor. But it’s interesting that political ideology plays into the outcome here, too: Conservatives leaned heavily on TCU (25 percent) and A&M (23 percent), while 24 percent of liberals managed to convince themselves that this was gonna be UT’s year. (Maybe Battleground Texas has some more explaining to do?)
Blue Bell is back! And 69 percent of Texans do not care that the company’s ice cream literally killed people before it was removed from shelves. (Another 16 percent of us haven’t ruled out giving the company another chance.) That’s not a shock—Blue Bell has been synonymous with “ice cream” in Texas for a long time, and the enthusiasm when it returned to shelves gave us some anecdotal reasons to believe that this wasn’t a deal-breaker. What’s interesting is that even when we’re talking about ice cream, politics are a factor: Conservatives feel much more strongly about Blue Bell than liberals do, with 57 percent of self-identified conservative respondents declaring themselves “very likely” to put Blue Bell in their freezer, compared to a mere 34 percent of liberals.
(charts courtesy of Crosswind Media and Public Relations)