Trump narrowly leads Biden in presidential race in Texas, UT/TT Poll finds

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President Donald Trump leads former Vice President Joe Biden by 5 points in the race for president in Texas, but voters give the president mixed grades on his handling of the pandemic and the economy.

FILE – In this combination of file photos, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Collier, Pa., on March 6, 2018, and President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on March 20, 2018. For a moment, West Virginia looked like it was going to be the only state in the country to allow betting on the presidential election. The short-lived play by bookmaker giant FanDuel was approved by the state lottery board. But it was announced and nixed within the span of about two hours Tuesday, April 7, 2020 in a bizarre sequence that appeared to baffle top government officials. Republican Gov. Jim Justice said it was ridiculous and he didn’t know why the lottery commission would approve such a deal. (AP Photo)

Donald Trump would beat Joe Biden by five points in Texas if the presidential race were held now, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

In a Trump-Biden contest, Democratic and Republican voters overwhelmingly back their own party’s candidate. But independent voters are on the fence, with 39% favoring Trump, 29% favoring Biden and 32% saying they haven’t formed an opinion.

The five point difference in support — 44% for Biden, 49% for Trump — is in line with previous UT/TT Polls taken before Democrats had settled on a nominee. In November 2019, the president was 7 percentage points ahead of Biden in a hypothetical general election matchup. In the February survey — conducted shortly before the presidential primaries in Texas and before the coronavirus outbreak was widespread — the two candidates were 4 percentage points apart. In all three of the most recent surveys, Trump’s lead was small, but outside the margins of error; none of the results could be called a statistical tie.

Trump has a harder race against himself. Ask Texans whether they would vote today to re-elect the president and, as they have done in four previous UT/TT polls, they split down the middle: 50% say they would vote for him, 49% said they’d vote against him.

Among Republican voters, 81% say they would definitely vote for Trump, and another 11% say they probably would. Democratic voters are just the opposite, with 85% definitely planning to vote for someone else, and 9% probably planning to. Most independent voters — 61% — would vote for someone else, while 39% say they’d vote for the president.

It’s only when you add Biden to the mix that Trump pulls ahead. “When you put a flesh-and-blood opponent against them, they do better,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

This year might make that usual head-to-head comparison more difficult, Shaw said.

“The reality nationally is that, for the first time in a long time, the incumbent isn’t going to be able to make it a comparison,” he said. “It’s going to be a referendum election about how the president is doing. First of all, it’s Trump, Trump, Trump all the time. And all the news is about coronavirus.”

And Texas voters give Trump approving grades on his response to the pandemic. While 48% approve, 45% disapprove. The first group includes 86% of Republicans, and the second includes 84% of Democrats.

Trump’s handling of the economy got similar marks: 49% of the state’s registered voters, including 89% of Republicans, approve of his economic policy. Another 42% — a group that includes 82% of Democrats — disapprove.

In a slight shift from the February UT/TT Poll, Texas voters were more likely to say Trump is doing a good job. Overall, 49% say they approve strongly (36%) or somewhat (13%) of the job he’s doing, while 45% say they disapprove, including 39% who disapprove strongly. In the February survey, 45% of voters gave the president a good report card while 48% gave him a bad one.

The partisans barely overlap on Trump’s performance, with 90% of Republicans saying they approve of the job he’s doing, and 87% of Democrats saying they disapprove.

Asked their opinion of the president’s Democratic rival, only 35% of the voters say they have a favorable impression of Biden, while 51% have an unfavorable one — including 40% who say their impression of the former vice president is “very unfavorable.”

Female voters are split 46-46 on the presidential race, while male voters are solidly with Trump at 53-41.

Trump maintains strong support with white voters in Texas, polling at 60-34 against Biden. But the story for black and Hispanic voters is more mixed: black voters are overwhelmingly in favor of Biden (74-16), while Hispanic voters showed a 50-40 preference.

Other differences show up in geography. 57% of urban voters prefer Biden, but Trump leads in both the suburbs at 49-43, and with rural voters — 67% of whom say they’d favor the Republican.

Yet, only 39% of Texas voters think the country is headed in the right direction, while 52% think things are on the wrong track. A strong majority of Republicans — 69% — say the U.S. is on the right track, while 86% of Democrats say it’s going in the wrong direction. Independents leaned toward the Democrats on the question: 60% say the country is going in the wrong direction.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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