New Texas poll: Trump and Biden in close race

In US Senate contest, Cornyn lead over Hegar shrinks

President Donald Trump is about even with former Vice President Joe Biden in a close contest for Texas’ 38 electoral votes in a new swing state poll of Texas likely voters released today.

The independent, nonpartisan poll by the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion found that Trump has the support of 48 percent of likely Texas voters, Biden is at 47 percent and minor party candidates are at 3 percent. Only 1 percent of Texas likely voters say they are undecided. Trump’s 1-point advantage, well within the poll’s plus or minus 4.2 percent margin of error, indicates that the race is incredibly close. This also represents a small shift in the race; in a Sept. 29 poll by the center, Trump led Biden by 3 points.

For most of the early voting period, Texas has led the nation in early voting turnout as a percentage of 2016 turnout. As of this morning, the United States Election Project reports that the current voter turnout in Texas is an astonishing 94 percent of the total turnout in 2016.

Those who have already voted this year represent 60 percent of the respondents in this poll, which was fielded from Oct. 20 through Oct. 26. Among those who have already voted, Biden leads Trump, 52 percent to 46 percent. But among those who intend to vote on Election Day, Trump leads Biden 64 percent to 30 percent. With an unprecedented number of early votes in Texas already cast, it will be critical for Trump to turn out his supporters, many of whom have decided to wait until Election Day. More on voters’ support by age, ethnicity, gender and education is available at http://www.uml.edu/polls.

While Trump leads Biden, his approval rating is even among Texas likely voters at 50 percent approve and 50 percent disapprove. Among those who approve, 36 percent do so strongly and 14 percent somewhat. Among Trump disapprovers, 8 percent do so somewhat and 42 percent strongly disapprove of the way he is handling his job as president.

With the two presidential debates in the books, a plurality of Texas likely voters believe that Joe Biden was the winner of each debate. On the first debate, Biden was given the nod by 41 percent of voters compared to 33 percent for Trump; another 15 percent said the debate was a draw and 11 percent were unsure. On the second debate, 43 percent gave Biden the win, 39 percent gave Trump the win, 8 percent said it was a draw and 11 percent said they were unsure. When asked about the overall quality of the 2020 debates compared to previous years, 71 percent of likely Texas voters said that the debates were worse than in previous years, 8 percent said they were better, 13 percent said they were about the same and 8 percent were unsure.

“Democrats have been dreaming of a Blue Texas for longer than most Texans have been alive. This is the clearest sign that Democrats are close, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, not elections. Democrats have probably surged almost all the votes they can get out of the Lone Star State; the question is whether Republicans will be motivated enough to turn out on Election Day,” said John Cluverius, associate director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion and assistant professor of political science.

In a closely watched U.S. Senate race in Texas, Republican incumbent Sen. John Cornyn has seen his lead cut in half in a race against Democratic challenger MJ Hegar. Cornyn, who previously led Hegar by 10 points in the center’s Sept. 29 poll, now polls at 49 percent to Hegar’s 44 percent with 5 percent of voters undecided.

Cornyn’s net favorability rating is just +1 (40 percent favorable, 39 percent unfavorable) and 17 percent of Texas likely voters have no opinion of him, while 5 percent have never heard of him. However, time may be running out for Hegar. While she appears to have gained ground on Cornyn since last month, her net favorables have also declined from +13 to +2 over the last month. She is now at 35 percent favorable and 33 percent unfavorable, with 24 percent who have no opinion and 8 percent who have never heard of her.

“With his weak favorables, one can’t help but wonder what might have been in this Senate race if a higher profile challenger with more name recognition had entered this race,” said Joshua Dyck, director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion and associate professor of political science.

A central defining issue of the 2020 election campaign has been the coronavirus pandemic and resulting policy response from the government. Asked how satisfied they are with the federal government’s response to COVID-19, 52 percent of Texas likely voters say they are unsatisfied, compared to 48 percent who are satisfied. Asked who is better suited to handle the pandemic, likely voters give the edge to Biden, 46 percent to 41 percent for Trump. On the question of whether it is safe to re-open schools, 51 percent of Texas likely voters say that it is not safe to reopen local public schools for face-to-face instruction. When asked if Trump could have avoided contracting COVID-19 by wearing a mask more often, 63 percent of likely voters said yes, while 37 percent said no.

The poll also found the following among likely Texas voters:

  • Gov. Greg Abbott has an approval rating of 56 percent (32 percent strongly approve, 24 percent somewhat approve);

  • Asked who they think will win the 2020 presidential election, Texas likely voters give Trump the slight edge: 44 percent say Trump will win and 40 percent say Biden will win. The perception of the race has shifted since the Sept. 29 poll, when Trump had a 12 percent edge over Biden on who voters said would win;

  • Asked who will best handle the economy, Trump beats Biden 51 percent to Biden’s 38 percent;

  • The Trump campaign has made a concerted effort to pin to Biden the label of a “corrupt politician,” tying him to his son’s alleged activities in the Ukraine. Has it worked? Head to head, the center’s survey asked likely voters about the candidates on a number of dimensions. On the question of “who is more corrupt?” 44 percent say Trump and 42 percent say Biden, with 9 percent saying they are about equal, and 5 percent unsure.

Detailed poll results – including topline and methodology – are available at http://www.uml.edu/polls. The nonpartisan poll is independently funded by the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion, which conducts public-opinion polling at the state and national levels. The nationally recognized center uses the latest technology and highest standards in its surveys and is a member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s Transparency Initiative. The center’s events and polls on political and social issues provide unique opportunities for civic engagement, experiential learning and research.

The poll of 873 likely Texas voters was independently funded by the University of Massachusetts Lowell, which has more than 1,000 students and alumni who hail from Texas. The survey was designed and analyzed by the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion and fielded by YouGov from Oct. 20 through Oct. 26. It has an adjusted margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent. Full poll methodology is available at http://www.uml.edu/polls.

In addition to the survey of likely voters in Texas, the Center for Public Opinion also released polls in two other states today. The findings include:

  • In New Hampshire, Biden leads by 10 points, with 53 percent of likely voters, compared to 43 percent for Trump. Biden’s lead has widened from eight points in the Sept. 29 poll by the center. Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen leads her challenger, Republican Corky Messner 57 percent to 38 percent.
    Incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Sununu leads Democratic challenger Dan Feltes 59 percent to 36 percent. (Poll of 757 likely New Hampshire voters conducted Oct. 16 through Oct. 26 with an adjusted margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.)

  • In North Carolina, Trump and Biden are tied with 48 percent support of likely voters. In the race for U.S. Senate, Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham leads Republican incumbent Thom Tillis 49 percent to 45 percent. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper leads Republican challenger Dan Forest 54 percent to 42 percent. (Poll of 911 likely North Carolina voters conducted Oct. 20 through Oct. 26 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent.)

UMass Lowell is a national research university offering its more than 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe. http://www.uml.edu

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