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UT/TT Poll: Sanders and Biden Lead Texas Democratic Presidential Nomination Race; Trump Impeachment Trial Leaves Texans’ Views Unwavering

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Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden
Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders (left) and Joe Biden. Photos by Gage Skidmore.

AUSTIN, Texas — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders holds a slim lead over former Vice President Joe Biden in Texas in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, conducted as campaigns faced their first real tests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Sanders is the choice of 24% of Texans who intend to vote in the state’s March 3 Democratic primary, followed by Joe Biden with 22%, Elizabeth Warren with 15% and Michael Bloomberg with 10%. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who finished first in delegates in the Iowa Caucuses and tied with Sanders in delegates won in the New Hampshire primary, was the choice of 7% of Texans polled.

“Bernie Sanders increased his share of Democratic support by 12 percentage points since October, while Biden’s support fell slightly,” said James Henson, co-director of the poll and executive director of the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin. “As we’re seeing in polling in other parts of the U.S., at this point Sanders seems to be solidifying support among the most progressive wing of the party, but a clear alternative to Sanders among Democrats has yet to emerge.”

The poll, conducted Jan. 31 to Feb. 9, also asked 1,200 Texas registered voters about their views toward the now-concluded impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Overall, Texas voters remain deeply divided along partisan lines on whether they believe Trump has taken actions during his presidency that justify his removal from office — 43% believe that he has, and 46% believe he has not.

In considering Trump’s response to the impeachment investigations, 39% approve and 46% disapprove, including 41% who disapprove strongly, attitudes that have changed little since the October 2019 UT/TT poll, conducted prior to the president’s impeachment.

“The impeachment trial of the president did little to change Texans’ views of the president,” Henson said. “The only noticeable change was that Democrats as a group were slightly more likely to believe the president’s removal was justified, and Republicans slightly more likely to believe he shouldn’t be removed. In short, views of the president became more set and more polarized along partisan lines.”

This pattern was also evident in Trump’s job approval ratings. Nearly unanimous job approval among Republicans and similarly uniform disapproval among Democrats resulted in overall approval by 45% and disapproval by 48%. The poll also explored Texans’ approval of the president’s handling of key issues. Some of the findings include:

  • Trump’s highest approval rating was for his handling of the economy. Half of Texans polled approved of how he handled the economy, and 36% disapproved.
  • On foreign policy, 44% approved and 45% disapproved.
  • On trade negotiations, 44% approved and 43% disapproved.
  • On immigration and border security issues, 45% approved and 47% disapproved.

“Economic and job growth have been centerpieces of Trump’s argument for reelection,” Henson said. “A few Democrats and independents express a willingness to give Trump positive reviews in this area that they don’t grant him elsewhere.”

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey of 1,200 registered voters has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Data was collected over the internet by YouGov based on a questionnaire written by the directors of the poll at UT Austin. More results from the poll will be released next week in The Texas Tribune.

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 latest poll and an archive of past results dating to 2008 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.