Ken Paxton, the currently suspended Texas attorney general, has been in the news a lot of late with his Senate impeachment trial kicking off Sept. 5.
But how do everyday Texans feel about Paxton?
According to a new poll conducted by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin shortly after the AG was impeached by the House, there was no meaningful change in Texans’ views on whether impeachment was justified.
But Paxton also registered his lowest job approval rating from among 14 polls conducted since April 2021.
Jim Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project, said the big question for this poll was whether Texans feel Paxton should be removed from office.
“What we found was that a plurality of Texans said, yes — 47%. Only 18% said that he had not done something that justified removing him. But I think, tellingly, a big chunk – 35% – didn’t offer an opinion,” Henson said. “So while the public is not the direct jury on this, there’s a lot of negative sentiment. But a big share of the jury is still out.”
Henson said one finding of the poll was that while people inside the impeachment process have been paying attention to the details, average voters are not following along as closely.
“We surveyed 1,200 registered voters. We used data collection on the Internet by YouGov, and we have a demographically representative sample. So we know that we have a group of Texans that, because they’re registered voters, are probably a little more attentive than your average person,” he said.
“But we have also been asking people for a couple of years now how much they’ve heard about the legal problems of Ken Paxton. … Even as recently as August of 2023, when we conducted this poll just a week and a half or so ago, only 31%, about a third, said that they’d heard a lot about the legal problems and even a little fewer than that said that they’d heard explicitly about the impeachment.”
There is also a split between how Republican voters view Paxton and his impeachment compared to Democrats.
“It’s very predictable that on that item we talked about in terms of whether it would be justified to remove him from office, Democratic attitudes were lopsided. 71% said yes. Only 8% said no, it wasn’t justified,” Henson said.
“Republicans are very interesting, as they have been throughout this impeachment process. Only about a quarter of Republicans, 24%, said that they thought that he should be removed. But a very large share, in fact, the plurality of Republicans, withheld their opinion. 43% of Republicans said that they didn’t know, and only about a third said that he should not be removed.”
Henson said this could make it hard for Republican lawmakers to parse the feelings of their constituents.
“A key point for the Senate jurors, particularly those Republican senators who are looking to their constituents for guidance, there’s just not a lot of clear guidance among Republicans who are still making up their mind in large part,” Henson said.