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UT/Trib poll: Clinton and Cruz lead in Texas

I’d been wondering when we were going to get a fresh poll for the Texas primary races.

Hillary Clinton’s lead over Bernie Sanders has narrowed considerably in Texas but remains in the double digits among the state’s likely Democratic primary voters, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

The former secretary of state is leading, with 54 percent, a week before the Texas primary, while Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, has the support of 44 percent of the respondents.

Texas voters have six other choices on the Democratic presidential primary ballot: Martin O’Malley, Roque “Rocky” de la Fuente, Willie Wilson, Star Locke, Keith Judd and Calvis Hawes. None attracted significant support from the poll’s respondents.

“This race is narrowing, but not narrowing in a way for the lines to actually cross — especially in Texas,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin and the poll’s co-director. Clinton will win, he said, but the question mark, is the state’s Hispanic voters and their relatively low propensity to vote. “This will be a double-digit race, but I don’t think it’s going to be a 20-point race.”

Clinton has a formidable base of black and Hispanic voters, while Sanders is doing better with Anglos. She leads 70 percent to 27 percent among black voters and 60 percent to 37 percent among Hispanic voters. Sanders, meanwhile, has the support of 55 percent of white voters to Clinton’s 44 percent. Clinton’s advantage, the pollsters said, could swell if her campaign can boost the numbers of Hispanics voting in the state.

“It’s her state to lose,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. “Whether this race is 10 points or 18 points rests almost entirely on your opinion of whether Hispanics are going to turn up to vote.”

Poll results are here. In October. the Trib had Clinton up 61-30, and last June it was 53-15. Trib polls are what they are, and as we know from March of 2014, their primary polling can be a bit iffy, but nothing here strikes me as odd. You can look at Clinton’s support as being lower than it was three months ago, or you can look at it as being stable over the longer term. Sanders, meanwhile, has grown consistently but still can’t quite break out. Turnout is good but not overwhelming, which is consistent with what we have seen in other states and as Steve Benen has noted kind of undercuts Sanders’ claims about activating a huge wave of less-engaged voters. But it’s still early enough here that things can change, and both candidates will be working their ground games, so don’t carve anything into stone.

Meanwhile, in that other primary:

With a week remaining before the Texas Republican primary, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has an 8-percentage-point lead over Donald Trump, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Cruz had 37 percent of the vote in the poll. Trump, the businessman and TV personality who finished first in two of the three states that have already voted, had the support of 29 percent, followed by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio at 15 percent.

The rest of the candidates were far behind: Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race after the South Carolina primary, had 6 percent; John Kasich, 5 percent; and Ben Carson, 4 percent. The rest of the candidates on the Texas Republican ballot barely registered: Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, Elizabeth Gray, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie each got 2 percent or less. Several of those candidates have already suspended their campaigns but were included in the poll because all of their names remain on the Texas ballot.

“These numbers reflect what most of us think was going on in Texas: It’s decent ground for Donald Trump because he’s a national candidate who’s touched a nerve everywhere, but it displays a little bit of a homefield advantage for Ted Cruz,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin.

What looked like a three-candidate race coming out of South Carolina looks more like a two-person race in Texas, with Cruz and Trump almost certainly in position to split the state’s 155 Republican delegates. Among likely Republican primary voters who identify with the Tea Party, Cruz leads Trump 56 percent to 26 percent in the UT/TT Poll. Among voters who identify as Republicans when given the choice to bolt for the Tea Party, the candidates were relatively even: Cruz had 32 percent to Trump’s 30 percent. Rubio had 18 percent of those voters, and 8 percent of those who identify with the Tea Party.

Cruz and Trump were tied with 27 each in October, and Cruz had 20 while Trump was still a non-entity in June, back when the likes of Rick Perry and Scott Walker still roamed the earth. The RCP average for Texas closely mirrors this result, not too surprising given the overall paucity of polling.

I confess, I had hoped there would be general election matchups included in this poll. You’d only need to test six combinations, which is well within most polls’ capabilities. Perhaps they did do that and are rolling out their full set of numbers over the week. I hope that’s the case, but we’ll see. Regardless, some more primary polling would be nice as well. PDiddie and Stace have more.

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