How Texas voters are feeling about Trump, Biden and more as election draws closer

Will this be the year Texas turns purple? A new poll gauges political sentiment in the Lone Star State.

By Rhonda Fanning & Patrick M. DavisMay 1, 2024 3:21 pm,

Every couple of months, the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Politics Project surveys registered voters in the Lone Star State to check the political pulse.

In its most recent poll, it looks ahead at which candidate voters favor in this year’s presidential election. The poll also looks at how voters with different political affiliations feel about issues like abortion, border security and more.

Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, joined the Standard to talk about the survey’s findings. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Let’s begin with presidential politics. Not too surprising that in Texas, former President Donald Trump is leading. But this poll also looked at the presidential race with and without third party candidates like RFK, Jr. Do any of the candidates seem to have more impact on President Biden’s or former President Trump’s numbers?

Jim Henson: Well, you’re right to single out RFK Jr. The presence of alternatives, such as they are, affected Biden slightly more than Trump in this poll. It was close to even with Kennedy taking 8% of Democrats in this poll, 6% of Republicans – a gap that’s within the margin of error.

So I think at this point, it’s fair to conclude that he’s draining roughly equal shares. But if you look at his favorability ratings in this poll, Kennedy is viewed much more negatively by Democrats on the whole. So I think there’s a pretty low ceiling for him among Democrats going forward. 

I know that you asked voters if they had concerns about their candidate of choice, and age has obviously become an issue in the political conversation. President Biden is 81 years old, Trump is just a few years behind him. Is age number one here among concerns in Texas, or are there other concerns that pop up in this poll? 

Well, there’s an interesting contrast here in the way we did this. Once we asked people what candidate they supported, we followed up and asked each group of supporters if they had concerns about their candidate. If they said they did, we then asked them what those concerns were.

Age is really a much bigger concern among Biden supporters than it is among Trump supporters, and that’s similar to what we’ve seen nationally. Two thirds of Biden supporters say something about his age and health are their main concerns.

There’s not much of a consensus concern among Trump voters. Only 7% say they’re concerned about his age. The most frequently mentioned concerns about the former president are his legal issues. But even then, only 18% of Trump supporters mentioned this is something they’re concerned about. 

We’ve been hearing about how abortion is playing in some of the local elections and other state elections. What about in Texas? How are voters in Texas feeling about stricter abortion laws here since the fall of Roe v. Wade? Are there any signs of that having an impact come November?

Well, the response we’ve seen in our polling since the combination of Texas’ highly restrictive abortion laws passed in 2021, and then the Dobbs decision the following year, has been an increase in the share of Texas voters who say that Texas abortion laws should be less strict.

There are, of course, big differences between Republicans and Democrats. But even among Republicans, we’ve seen a rise in the size of the minority of Republicans that think that abortion laws need to be made less strict.

Obviously, on the minds of listeners is what’s happening in the Mideast with the Israel-Hamas war and, of course, the protests at colleges we’ve been seeing around the state. Are Texas voters weighing in at all on support for U.S. aid to Israel? Did that come up?

It did. We’ve asked a few different questions about that.

The key question we asked was whether U.S. policy should primarily be working to support Israeli military efforts, should be primarily working to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties, or should be working to balance both. Now, the plurality, 35%, favored a balanced approach. A smaller share, 22%, said that the primary focus of U.S. policy should be working to support Israeli military efforts, and then 14% said that the primary goal should be preventing Palestinian civilian casualties.

The big takeaway here, in a lot of ways, is that the plurality is looking for some kind of balance in U.S. policy.

Jim, there’s been some talk in Texas that with demographic shifts, more people moving to Texas, that the political complexion of Texas is changing. And we could see a difference at the polls this November, moving more toward a purple state from red. Are you seeing any signs of that in this poll?

I don’t see much more movement towards the state being more competitive in the fall. But I would bracket that by saying it’s still early. A lot of people are still not paying attention, particularly to races below the presidential level. But I don’t think we’re seeing any signs of big shifts at this point, certainly not in our polling so far this year. 

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