AUSTIN, Texas — In a U.S. Senate race that has attracted nationwide attention, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz leads U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke by 6 percentage points among likely voters, 51 to 45 percent, in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
The poll was conducted prior to the beginning of early voting in the state. The election match-ups have a sample size of 927 likely voters and a margin of error of +/- 3.22 percentage points.
Statewide incumbents enjoy comfortable leads across the board, according to the poll. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott holds a wide lead over former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez in the Texas governor race, 56 to 37 percent. Current Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick leads Democratic candidate Mike Collier, 53 to 35 percent. And Attorney General Ken Paxton leads Democratic candidate Justin Nelson, 48 to 36 percent.
“These races look about like you’d expect,” said UT Austin government professor Daron Shaw, a co-director of the UT/Texas Tribune poll. “Republicans benefit from the partisan complexion of the state’s electorate, with variation reflecting the particular qualities of specific races and candidates. O’Rourke is running stronger than a typical Democrat, while Valdez is running a little worse.”
Since the previous UT/Texas Tribune poll in June 2018, approval of the job Cruz is doing as senator has risen from 39 to 47 percent among registered voters, with 42 currently disapproving of the job he has done as a U.S. senator.
Fifty-two percent of respondents approve of the job Abbott has done as Texas governor while 32 percent disapprove. His approval has risen 5 percentage points since the June 2018 poll, and the governor remains the most positively reviewed elected official among those surveyed.
Respondents were asked about their favorability of the candidates. Some highlights among likely voters include:
- Cruz: 51 and 44 percent view him as favorable and unfavorable, respectively.
- O’Rourke: 46 and 50 percent view him as favorable and unfavorable, respectively.
- Abbott: 56 and 35 percent view him favorably and unfavorably, respectively,
- Valdez: 31 and 38 percent view her favorably and unfavorably, respectively.
“These results are consistent with the impression that the U.S. Senate race has been a contest to see which candidate can turn out their partisans,” said Texas Politics Project director Jim Henson, a co-director of the poll. “There is no significant crossover support for either candidate, so at this point, the different levels of support for Cruz and Abbott results from two things: slight majorities of independents currently supporting Abbott for governor but O’Rourke in the Senate race, and less expressed support among Democrats for Valdez than for O’Rourke.”
When asked about their vote for members of the U.S. House of Representatives, a widely watched indicator of the possibility of change in partisan control of the lower house of Congress, the GOP held a 7-point advantage, with 46 percent saying they would vote for Democratic congressional candidates and 53 percent supporting Republican candidates. All 36 Texas seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are on the ballot every two years.
“A large number of congressional retirements have combined with Democratic candidates mounting strong challenges in districts carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, or abutting major urban cores,” said Joshua Blank, manager of polling and research at the Texas Politics Project. “This has made these races far more interesting than usual, but the fundamental nature of the electorate still favors Republicans.”
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Oct. 15 to Oct. 21 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Likely voters were defined as those respondents who indicated that they have voted in every election in the past 2-3 years or that they are “absolutely certain to vote” in the upcoming November election. This resulted in 927 likely voters, producing a margin of error of +/- 3.22 percentage points.
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 were released initially by The Texas Tribune. More information about the poll can be found at the Texas Politics Project website. Graphics, a summary document, crosstabs and a data file will be publicly available for research and teaching next week at the Texas Politics Project website.