Former Vice President Joe Biden has regained a narrow lead over President Donald Trump in Texas, after wooing more independents and Hispanics, according to a poll released Sunday by The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler.
Biden’s lead among likely voters is 48%-45%, within the poll’s margin of error.
In the Texas race for U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent John Cornyn lost a bit more ground against Democrat MJ Hegar. Cornyn’s lead now stands at 8 points, down from 11 in September.
Also, in a sign of potential trouble for Texas as it grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, fewer than half of Texas registered voters say they’re likely to take a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. That’s a slide from last spring, when about three-quarters were willing.
“Texas remains a tossup because of the public’s attitudes toward President Trump,” said political scientist Mark Owens, who directed the poll.
In September, 32% of Texans said they had no confidence in Trump’s ability to keep communities safe from the coronavirus pandemic, Owens noted. Today, 44% voice that sentiment. Trump, though, still has the advantage as the candidate Texans believe would handle the economy best.
Biden, who was 2 points behind Trump among likely voters in The News and UT-Tyler’s September survey, edged slightly ahead of the president this month by expanding his support among independents and grabbing a better than 3-to-1 advantage among Hispanics.
The former vice president’s rebound from last month, when Trump led among likely Texas voters, 48-46, is sure to boost the already high spirits of state Democrats.
The poll, conducted Oct. 13-20, surveyed 1,012 registered voters. Of those, 925 are likely voters, 408 of whom had already voted and just 120 of whom said they plan to vote in person on Nov. 3. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.08 percentage points for the bigger group, and 3.22 points for the subset of likely voters.
The party split of poll respondents — 40% Republicans, 33% Democrats — “is in line with what we expect to see across the state,” Owens said
While Trump’s hospitalization with COVID-19 dominated headlines as the poll was being taken, 63% of Texans said the president’s illness neither heightened nor reduced their concern about the virus. The survey found 25% more concerned and 12% less.
In some ways, the pandemic and its economic fallout push the presidential race in opposite directions, Owens said.
As COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations have begun to rise again in Texas, especially toward the end of the survey period, Texans’ trust in Trump and Gov. Greg Abbott to protect them and their communities has ebbed, the poll found.
Trump’s job approval, at 47-46, is largely unchanged from a divided verdict in September (40-38). Similarly, the more popular Abbott’s job rating didn’t move, remaining at 54% approve, 34% disapprove.
But asked if they trust the leaders to keep their communities healthy and safe during the public health crisis, Texans gave Trump a thumbs-down, with 44% saying they trust him and 54% saying they don’t.
Abbott remains above water on that question, with 52% trusting and 45% not trusting him. In September, the same percentage trusted the governor but just 39% did not.
The UT-Tyler Political Science homepage is here, and you can see links to their past polls, which I’ll get to in a minute. They have two separate data sets for this one, one for registered voters and one for likely voters. It’s the LV sample that has Biden up 48-45; he’s leading 46-44 in the RV sample. I’m going to limit my discussion to the likely voter result, since that’s the more relevant at this point. I should note that their result in the Cornyn-Hegar race is 42-34 for Cornyn; more on that later as well.
This is the fourth UT/Tyler poll result we’ve had since Biden became the Dem nominee; they had a February pre-primary poll and three polls from 2019, but I’m less interested in those. Here’s what this pollster has said since the matchup officially became Biden versus Trump:
That second poll was the single best result Biden has gotten, and it came in the middle of that great run of polls for Biden. The third poll came in that run of good September results for Trump. This poll is the fifth one we’ve had in October that have shown either a tie or a small Biden lead, and it is again the best result for Biden.
Here’s a comparison of various subgroups from that September poll that had Trump up two, and this poll with Biden up three:
September October Subgroup Trump Biden Trump Biden ======================================== Dems 4 93 1 97 Indies 37 46 29 51 GOP 92 5 92 6 White 60 35 63 32 Hispanic 28 58 21 69 Black 9 87 5 89 18-24 22 75 15 78 25-34 30 58 30 59 35-44 47 47 43 47 45-65 54 40 51 42 65+ 56 40 56 40
It’s always a dicey proposition making definitive statements about movement within subgroups, since the margins of error are greater, but you can see why one sample is more favorable to Biden than the other.
As for the Senate race, it’s the same story as it has ever been, in that the “Don’t know” number is much higher – 18% overall, and in the 20s among Dems (21%) and indies (where Hegar leads 40-32), and people of color. The two third-party candidates combine for five percent of the vote, just a bit more than the three percent they get in the Presidential race. I believe this race is closer than the topline number indicates, but it is consistent with Cornyn slightly outperforming Trump. I believe that if Biden does win by three, Hegar is likely to win as well. Beyond that, we’ll see.
This poll did ask if people had voted, and what method they used to vote if they had voted. There weren’t any significant differences in the use of mail voting among the various subgroups. I wish they had asked for whom these people had voted, but they did not.
There’s still a NYT/Siena poll in the field for Texas, and if past elections are an indicator there may be a YouGov poll happening as well. We’ll see if anything contradicts this current run of success Biden has been on.