AUSTIN, Texas — In the first public statewide poll since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, 46 percent of Texas voters approve of the job he is doing as president, and 44 percent disapprove. Texas voters’ opinions of President Trump have improved since he took office, though nearly half of Texans still think the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
“Republicans as a group were relatively tentative in their embrace of Donald Trump during the campaign, but they are hugging him now,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project and co-director of the poll. “His favorability rating among Texas Republicans increased 21 points between October and February, which fueled an increase in his overall rating.”
While 39 percent of Texans polled believe things are headed in the right direction, 49 percent disagree – a significant change from the October 2016 UT/TT survey in which the respective assessments were 22 percent and 67 percent.
“The right direction-wrong track question has to be viewed in context,” said UT government professor Daron Shaw, who co-directs the poll with Henson. “People are more prone to say we’re on the wrong track, so anything close to 50-50 is actually a positive rating. The more illustrative finding is that close to 50 percent of Texans are so fed up with Washington, D.C., that they are willing to give Trump a chance despite thinking that he shoots from the hip and doesn’t know very much.”
In the latest poll, favorability of Trump improved by 14 points since October, with 45 percent of Texas voters viewing him favorably and 46 percent viewing him unfavorably. Opinions of Vice President Mike Pence were also split, with 42 percent and 40 percent of voters viewing him favorably and unfavorably, respectively.
“The role of the president as a figurehead and the power of partisanship are mutually reinforcing, and the result is likely to be durable support for Trump among Texas Republicans, even as he seems to test that support in the eyes of his critics almost daily,” Henson said, referring to increases among Texas Republicans in both support for Trump and positive views of the path the country is currently taking.
Perhaps the most intriguing example of the president’s ability to shape the attitudes of his partisans is opinion toward Russia and that country’s president, Vladimir Putin. Although 62 percent of Texas voters hold negative opinions of Putin, he was significantly more unpopular (by 28 percentage points) among Democrats than Republicans.
The internet-based statewide poll was conducted Feb. 3-10 by the public opinion research firm YouGov. The overall sample included 1,200 self-declared registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points.
When asked to identify the most important issues facing the state, Texas voters chose border security (16 percent), immigration (15 percent) and political corruption (10 percent). When considering national issues, respondents again listed political corruption (14 percent) and immigration (12 percent) but also included national security (9 percent). Concerns for the national economy fell 3 points from the previous poll, with 7 percent of Texans polled listing it as a top concern.
Respondents were also asked whether the national economy was better off than a year ago. Forty percent of voters polled said it was better while 20 percent said it was worse, assessments that were also more positive than in the previous poll. In considering how the Texas economy has fared during the past year, 28 percent said it was better and 16 percent said it was worse. In contrast to findings from states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, nearly half of Texans polled indicated that they do not feel they have been left behind by changes in the economy, while a third felt they had been left behind.
This is the latest in a series of polls conducted by UT Austin’s Texas Politics Project and The Texas Tribune. Comprehensive poll results and information about methodology will be released initially by The Texas Tribune during the next four business days. Graphics, a summary, crosstabs and a data file will be publicly available for research and teaching at the Texas Politics Project website next week.