Same story, new chapter,
Texas voters are split over whether they approve of Gov. Greg Abbott’s job performance, though he remains popular with Republicans and more popular among Texans than President Joe Biden, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
The June 2021 poll shows that 44% of Texans approve of Abbott’s job as governor, while 44% disapprove. That leaves him with an overall approval rating from Texas voters that’s better than those of Biden, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton and House Speaker Dade Phelan. Abbott enjoys the approval of 77% of his own party’s voters, with 43% of Republicans saying they “strongly approve” of his performance.
Democratic disapproval for Abbott remains potent. Eighty-two percent of Democrats disapprove of Abbott, with 75% of those Democrats saying they “strongly disapprove” of his performance.
“What we’re seeing now is that Democrats are registering as much disapproval with him as they are with really any kind of national Republican figure,” said Joshua Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project.
Abbott earned higher marks among Texas voters regarding his COVID-19 response at the start of the pandemic, Blank pointed out. In April 2020, 56% of Texans approved of Abbott’s response to the pandemic, but that slipped to 44% in the latest June poll.
“One of the things that benefited Greg Abbott was Donald Trump,” Blank said. “So Donald Trump’s inability to appear to be seriously dealing with the pandemic made Abbott’s attempts early on — even if they were criticized — much much more serious-looking, both to Republicans and Democrats, and I think that’s why his numbers were so high.”
As the pandemic drew on, Democratic disapproval of Abbott increased steadily. In the last poll, 81% of Democrats disapproved of Abbott’s COVID-19 response, with 67% saying they strongly disagree. Meanwhile, 74% of Republicans approve and 45% strongly approve.
Biden’s ratings have remained steady among both Democrats and Republicans since the February UT/TT Poll. His overall job approval with Texan voters is at 43% who approve and 47% who disapprove. When filtered by partisanship, 88% of Democrats approve of the job he’s doing, including 53% who strongly approve. As for Republicans, 84% disapprove of the job he’s doing with 77% strongly disapproving.
Texans see Biden’s COVID-19 response as a strength, while border security remains a weak point.
Overall, 49% of Texas voters approved of the president’s COVID-19 response, while 36% disapprove. Of those, 91% of Democrats approve, while 64% of Republicans disapprove.
See here for the February UT/Trib poll, which had Biden at 45 approve, 44 disapprove. There was also a May end-of-session poll that had him at 44/46. While it is true (and we have discussed before) that Abbott’s approval numbers had been bolstered in the past to some extent by him not being completely despised by Democrats, that moment has passed. It’s hard to compare his numbers to almost anyone else in the state because the “don’t know” response for them is so much higher – Ken Paxton has 32/36 approval, for instance, and for Dan Patrick it’s 36/37. My tentative conclusion is that there will likely be less of a gap between Abbott’s numbers next November and those of Patrick and Paxton (if he’s on the ballot), but that’s not set in stone. Who the Dems get to pick matters, too.
In reading this story, I got curious about how Biden was comparing to President Obama in Texas. I have mentioned that a decent approval rating for Biden next year would help Democrats on the ballot, and while it’s still early and the overall political environment is different, I thought it might be useful to have a bit of context. So I poked around in the UT Politics polling archive, and this is what I came up with:
June 2009 – 43 approve, 46 disapprove
October 2009 – 41 approve, 52 disapprove
February 2010 – 41 approve, 50 disapprove
May 2010 – 35 approve, 58 disapprove
September 2010 – 34 approve, 58 disapprove
May 2012 – 36 approve, 54 disapprove
February 2013 – 39 approve, 53 disapprove
June 2013 – 43 approve, 50 disapprove
October 2013 – 37 approve, 54 disapprove
February 2014 – 34 approve, 55 disapprove
June 2014 – 37 approve, 56 disapprove
October 2014 – 36 approve, 57 disapprove
Obama was pretty much in the same place at this point in 2009, and boy howdy did it go south from there. I’m pretty sure his overall approval numbers were better than Biden’s are now – again, the overall climate is much different – but the infamous Rick Santelli “tea party” rant had already occurred, and we know what happened next. Note that other than an outlier in June of 2013, the numbers were pretty stable and generally lousy through the first two years of each term. I included the May 2012 numbers because I came across them in my own post, but as you can see they still fit the pattern.
Obviously, if Biden is sporting similar approval numbers next year, we’re almost certainly doomed. I don’t think that will happen, but I don’t have anything solid to go on for that, so all we can do is watch and see. At least we have something to compare Biden to now.