Gov. Rick Perry holds a 12-point lead over probable challenger Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in next year's Republican primary, though more than one-third of likely voters are still undecided or would choose someone else, according to a poll conducted last month by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.
The statewide poll, coordinated by members of the Department of Government and the Texas Politics Project, also found that Perry and President Barack Obama have nearly identical statewide approval ratings--42 and 43 percent, respectively. Obama's disapproval ratings (46 percent), however, are much higher than Perry's (32 percent).
"The much anticipated match-up between Gov. Perry and Sen. Hutchison is proving to be a close one. While the governor has pulled ahead in this and other recent polls, the race is still apparently very close, and a lot of people have yet to make up their minds," said Texas Politics Project Director James Henson, who oversees the poll with Government Professor Daron Shaw.
"Both President Obama and Gov. Perry have comparably favorable approval ratings, though for quite disparate reasons," said Shaw. "Obama appears to still be in something of a honeymoon phase, with little backlash for spending policies that don't appeal to many Texans. In contrast, Perry is riding relatively high after a series of media events in which he took a hard-line stance against expansive federal government."
The poll's other findings include:
- More than 70 percent of Democrats remain undecided in their party's race for governor, with 12 percent backing songwriter and humorist Kinky Friedman and 2 percent behind former Ambassador Tom Schieffer, the only declared candidate. State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who is no longer in the race, receives 7 percent support.
- A race to replace Hutchison in the Senate would be wide open: 62 percent of voters are undecided. Among eight potential candidates, former Democratic Comptroller John Sharp has 10 percent support with Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst at 9 percent.
- Texans agree with Perry and the GOP on two hot-button, legislative issues. By a 43-36 percent margin, respondents oppose taking $500 million in federal stimulus money for unemployment benefits. By a 70-17 percent margin, they want to require voters to show a photo ID at the polls.
- More than three quarters of those surveyed say the country is worse off economically than one year ago while 41 percent say they are personally worse off.
In the GOP governor's race, Perry has the support of 38 percent of voters who say they plan to vote in the primary with Hutchison drawing 26 percent support. Thirty-four percent are undecided or say they support someone else. Perry also leads Hutchison by 11 points among all registered voters. The results for the gubernatorial primaries have a margin of error of 5.14 percent for all primary voters and 5.24 percent for registered primary voters. The overall results have a margin of error of 3.22 percent.
"Each side can find some solace in the fact that neither claims more than a third of the electorate at this moment," Shaw said
The poll surveyed 924 Texans online from June 11-22. The complete results are online.