Recent polling in Texas shows that voters tend to favor Trump in the presidential election, but the competitive U.S. House races in the state are gravitating toward Democrats.
In a Q&A with the Baker Institute, political scientist Mark Jones said that Texas’ widely reported purpling trend at the state level will have little impact on electoral votes.
“Texas will not become a battleground state in the true sense of the word,” Jones said. “If Texas was truly competitive, that would mean that Trump was doing so poorly nationally that he would have already lost hope in most of the toss-up and Democratic-leaning states. Texas’ 38 electoral votes would be unnecessary to cement a Biden victory in this scenario.”
A Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation (THPF) poll, conducted alongside Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, sided with Jones’ predictions. The report shows Trump leading Biden 47.5 to 40.5 percent among all Texas voters.
Excluding Green Party and Libertarian voters, the remaining one in ten Texans were undecided with 21.7 percent leaning towards Trump and 14.9 percent towards Biden.
Energy concerns, among other issues, may propel Trump’s lead. A survey of members of the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) conducted by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston found that more than three out of four respondents “possess a great deal (51 percent) or a good deal (25 percent) of concern about the threat of a Biden victory on their company’s economic well being.”
Jones, one of the principal investigators in the report, also predicted that Biden’s energy platform will deal a blow to his numbers in Texas.
Biden beats Trump in certain subgroups, namely Hispanics, younger voters, and women.
According to THPF, Biden polls 4 points ahead of Trump in voters under 50, the most unsure age demographic in the report with 13.2 percent undecided.
While Trump leads Biden by 18 points among men, Biden’s margin of support among women is only 2 points, due to a modest undecided population in the demographic (14.4 percent). Among Hispanics, Biden enjoys a ten-point lead, though 13.2 percent remain unsure.
Jones sees the trajectories of COVID-19 and the economy as likely barometers for Trump’s favor among voters. Upticks in growth and declines of infections and deaths will tend to boost Trump, and Biden should tend to rise with stagnation and increases of infections. Quinnipiac polls have already correlated with Jones’ analysis, putting Trump a point ahead of Biden during an infection decline and putting Biden on top as death tolls climbed again in late July.
The recent poll from THPF also included questions on the U.S. Senate.
Though not as contentious as the Senate race in 2018 between Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Beto O’Rourke, Democrats are still hopeful to oust the other Republican incumbent, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), with the nomination of MJ Hegar.
Hegar, a retired Air Force pilot who ran a close race against Rep. John Carter (R-TX-31) in 2018, narrowly won the runoff election to be the Democratic Senate nominee with 52 percent of the vote.
But the THPF poll showed Cornyn ahead with all voters by 44 to 37 percent, and ahead with likely voters by 47 to 41 percent.
Cornyn’s leads among Anglos by a 33 percent margin, but Hegar enjoys a wider lead among Hispanic and African American voters by 8 and 69 percent margins, respectively.
Hegar’s net favorability in the poll was significantly higher than Cornyn’s at 13 percent compared to 1 percent. However, 29 percent of respondents said that they did not have enough information for an opinion on Hegar, while only 13 percent said they were uninformed about Cornyn.
In the last election before redistricting will likely change the makeup of Texas’ congressional delegation again, several competitive races in both Republican- and Democrat-held seats are underway.
Three races moved to the left in Cook’s ratings:
- TX-03 with Rep. Van Taylor (R-TX-03) shifted from likely Republican to lean Republican;
- TX-21 with Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21) shifted from lean Republican to a toss-up; and
- TX-32 with Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX-32) shifted from lean Democratic to likely Democratic.
Similarly, five races shifted to the left in the analysis from Inside Elections:
- TX-02 with Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-02) shifted from solid Republican to likely Republican;
- TX-06 with Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX-06) shifted from solid Republican to likely Republican;
- TX-21 with Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21) shifted from lean Republican to tilt Republican;
- TX-24, an open seat with a race between Beth Van Duyne (R) and Candace Valenzuela (D), shifted from tilt Republican to a toss-up; and
- TX-25 with Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX-25) shifted from solid Republican to likely Republican.
Of the congressional races in Texas, both analyses list the open seats of TX-24 and TX-22 — with Republican Troy Nehls running against Sri Preston Kulkarni on the Democratic ticket.
TX-21, where Roy is facing Democrat Wendy Davis, is now rated as the closest race with an incumbent by the two outside analytic groups.
An internal poll from Davis’ campaign released in July showed Roy ahead by one point with a 4.25 percent margin of error.
Two other close races noted by both Cook Political and Inside Elections include TX-07, where freshman incumbent Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (R-TX-07) is being challenged by Republican Wesley Hunt, and TX-23, where Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-TX-23) resignation has left the battle for the seat between Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones and Republican Tony Gonzales.
The two districts are rated as lean Democratic by both analyses.
An internal poll in TX-23 released by Gonzales’ campaign showed that Jones led by one point, but polling on the presidential race in the district showed that Biden was ahead three points compared to Clinton’s carry of the district with 4 points in 2016.
Despite the release of these preliminary metrics, there is still plenty of time for drastic shifts in candidate and incumbent favorability before November.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.