Texas voters split over Gov. Greg Abbott’s job performance, but he remains popular among Republicans, UT/TT Poll finds

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Texas voters are split over whether they approve of Gov. Greg Abbott’s job performance, though he remains popular with Republicans and more popular among Texans than President Joe Biden, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

The June 2021 poll shows that 44% of Texans approve of Abbott’s job as governor, while 44% disapprove. That leaves him with an overall approval rating from Texas voters that’s better than those of Biden, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton and House Speaker Dade Phelan. Abbott enjoys the approval of 77% of his own party’s voters, with 43% of Republicans saying they “strongly approve” of his performance.

Democratic disapproval for Abbott remains potent. Eighty-two percent of Democrats disapprove of Abbott, with 75% of those Democrats saying they “strongly disapprove” of his performance.

“What we're seeing now is that Democrats are registering as much disapproval with him as they are with really any kind of national Republican figure,” said Joshua Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project.

Abbott earned higher marks among Texas voters regarding his COVID-19 response at the start of the pandemic, Blank pointed out. In April 2020, 56% of Texans approved of Abbott’s response to the pandemic, but that slipped to 44% in the latest June poll.

“One of the things that benefited Greg Abbott was Donald Trump,” Blank said. “So Donald Trump's inability to appear to be seriously dealing with the pandemic made Abbott's attempts early on — even if they were criticized — much much more serious-looking, both to Republicans and Democrats, and I think that's why his numbers were so high.”

As the pandemic drew on, Democratic disapproval of Abbott increased steadily. In the last poll, 81% of Democrats disapproved of Abbott’s COVID-19 response, with 67% saying they strongly disagree. Meanwhile, 74% of Republicans approve and 45% strongly approve.

When it comes to immigration and border security — a hot topic which spurred Abbott announce his own border wall earlier this month — 46% of voters approve of his job and 37% disapprove. Approval ratings once again remain consistent with party lines, as 73% of Democrats disapprove of the job he's doing on immigration and border security. Among Republicans, 78% approve and only 9% disapprove.

President Joe Biden

Biden’s ratings have remained steady among both Democrats and Republicans since the February UT/TT Poll. His overall job approval with Texan voters is at 43% who approve and 47% who disapprove. When filtered by partisanship, 88% of Democrats approve of the job he's doing, including 53% who strongly approve. As for Republicans, 84% disapprove of the job he's doing with 77% strongly disapproving.

Texans see Biden’s COVID-19 response as a strength, while border security remains a weak point.

Overall, 49% of Texas voters approved of the president’s COVID-19 response, while 36% disapprove. Of those, 91% of Democrats approve, while 64% of Republicans disapprove.

“Fourteen percent of Republicans still approve of the job he's doing on COVID because it's one of his strong places,” Blank added.

As for immigration and border security, only 27% of Texas voters approve of the job Biden is doing, while 57% disapprove. Republican disapproval runs especially high, with 89% saying they disapprove, including 82% who strongly disapprove. For Democrats, 56% approve of the president’s job at the border but their support is more tepid, as only 21% strongly approve, 35% somewhat approve and nearly one in five disapprove.

“I think in all cases, this is the power of negative partisanship and the influence that our negative attitudes towards the other party have on us,” Blank said.

62% of independent voters disapprove of Biden when it comes to immigration and border security, while 14% approve.

Cruz and Cornyn 

Cruz enjoys a 79% approval rating among Texas Republicans. Meanwhile, Cornyn, his senior counterpart, has a 60% approval rating within the party. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans strongly approved of Cruz’s performance, but only 24% said the same for Cornyn.

“Cornyn’s roots are in a very different Republican Party and if anything, Cornyn has had to adjust to a political party that evolved in a way that is much closer to the image and orientation of Ted Cruz than it was to the John Cornyn that first ran for office more than two decades ago,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project.

Among Texas voters, 41% disapprove of Cornyn, including 74% of Democrats. As for Cruz, he has 43% approval and 46% disapproval among Texan voters. Eighty-six percent of Democrats disapprove of the job he's doing.

Texans voters, especially Democrats, disapprove of the U.S. Congress as a whole.

Other state leaders

Paxton had the lowest approval rating of statewide elected leaders polled with 33% of Texan voters approving and 36% disapproving. 58% of Republicans approve of the job he's doing, while 66% of Democrats disapprove and 59% strongly disapprove.

Patrick had a 36% total approval rating, and a 37% disapproval rating.

Blank pointed out that many state officials remain unknown in the eyes of Texan voters, but that is “becoming less and less the case.”

“I think it's notable that over half of Democrats now register a negative opinion in fact a strongly negative opinion of him,” Blank said of Paxton.

Phelan, R-Beaumont, isn’t elected statewide and still remains a low-profile figure among Texans; 20% of Texas voters approve of the job he’s doing, while 27% disapprove. There has been an uptick in Democratic disapproval of the speaker over the course of 2021, due to the infighting and turmoil that shaped the most recent legislative session, Blank said.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from June 10-21 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points.

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.