AUSTIN, Texas — Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke is more widely known among both Democrats and Republicans in Texas than fellow Democrat Julián Castro, former mayor of San Antonio, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Castro announced his candidacy Jan. 12. O’Rourke is expected to announce his presidential bid within weeks.
Forty-three percent of Texas voters indicated having favorable opinions of O’Rourke, while 45 percent viewed the former congressman unfavorably. When asked their opinions on Castro, 26 percent of Texans viewed him favorably, compared with 31 percent who viewed him unfavorably.
With political observers expecting both candidates to tout their support in a demographically changing Texas, O’Rourke is more well-known than Castro at this early point in the campaign, particularly among Democrats. Only 11 percent of Texas Democrats had no view of O’Rourke, while 85 percent view him favorably. Forty-three percent had no opinion of Castro, while 51 percent viewed Castro favorably. Castro also served as secretary of housing and urban development during the Obama administration.
“O’Rourke’s standing reflects both a recency bias, as well as the relative success of his 2018 campaign for the U.S. Senate,” said UT Austin government professor Daron Shaw, who co-directs the poll. “Voters on both sides of the aisle know about O’Rourke and have opinions on him. Castro, on the other hand, is someone who is known mostly by insiders and voters in San Antonio.”
The state’s senior senator, Republican John Cornyn, who is facing re-election in 2020, has the approval of 36 percent of Texas voters, with 35 percent disapproving and the remaining 29 percent declining to offer an opinion. Among Texas Republicans, 62 percent approve of his job performance, while among Democrats, 60 percent disapprove.
Texas voters were closely divided when asked whether they would vote to re-elect President Donald Trump, with 49 percent indicating that they definitely or probably would vote for the incumbent in 2020, and 51 percent saying they probably or definitely would not. Compared with last year’s February poll, Trump’s approval rating among Texas voters increased by 3 percentage points, from 46 to 49 percent. However, Texans’ disapproval of his job as president has also increased, from 38 percent to 45 percent.
“While the 2018 midterm elections saw Democrats make modest gains in the state Legislature and in Congress, President Trump’s approval numbers remain relatively stable, based primarily on continued support from Texas Republicans,” said James Henson, co-director of the poll and director of the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin. “Texas Democrats have settled into intensely negative views of the president, suggesting the possibility of another comparatively high-interest election in 2020.”
Texas voters’ views of the United States Congress remain negative. According to the poll, 61 percent of Texans disapprove of the job Congress has been doing, a number that has increased significantly since the October poll (47 percent). Today, 18 percent approve.
“If you thought voters couldn’t get much more negative about the Congress, guess again,” Shaw said. “The key explanation here is party, though. The downward tick in approval undoubtedly reflects the reaction of Republicans in Texas to a Congress in which Democrats are now the majority.”
Respondents were asked about their favorability of other Texas leaders. Some highlights among voters include:
- Gov. Greg Abbott: 51 and 32 percent view him as favorable and unfavorable, respectively.
- Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: 42 and 31 percent view him as favorable and unfavorable, respectively.
- U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz: 46 and 43 percent view him as favorable and unfavorable, respectively.
- U.S. Sen. John Cornyn: 36 and 35 percent view him as favorable and unfavorable, respectively.
- First-term Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Dennis Bonnen: 26 and 16 percent view him favorably and unfavorably, respectively.
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Feb. 15 to Feb. 24 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 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.
Featured image: Beto O’Rourke being interviewed at the 2012 Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum for Democratic Candidates for the 16th Congressional District of Texas. Photo courtesy of the Beto O’Rourke for Congress Committee.