New UT/Texas Politics Project Poll: Texans' views of Ken Paxton as his trial nears

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With suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment trial in the Texas Senate set to begin on Tuesday, September 5, a new University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll finds that a plurality of Texans, 47%, think Paxton took actions that justify removing him office, while 18% say he did not. Paxton fares slightly better among Republicans, though his partisan base remains divided, with the plurality unsure of whether Paxton should, or should not, be removed from office. The poll, which also saw a continued decline in Paxton's job approval and no discernible increase in attention to his situation, was conducted August 19-28 among 1200 self-declared registered voters in Texas, and the overall sample has a margin of error of +/- 2.83%. 

When asked, “do you think that Ken Paxton took actions while Attorney General that justify removing him from elected office?”, a plurality of registered voters in Texas, 47%, said yes, 18% said no, and 35% said they didn’t know or had no opinion.

  • Among Republicans: 24% said yes, 32% said no, and a plurality, 43%, said they didn’t know or had no opinion
  • Among independents: 42% said yes, 14% said no, and 44% said they didn’t know or had no opinion
  • Among Democrats: 71% said yes, 8% said no, and 21% said they didn’t know or had no opinion

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categoryTotal
Yes47%
No18%
Don't know/No opinion35%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Yes71%42%24%
No8%14%32%
Don't know/No opinion21%44%43%

A question repeated from a June 2023 UT/TxPP poll conducted shortly after Paxton was impeached revealed no overall change in Texans’ views of whether or not the Texas House was justified in impeaching Paxton at the end of the regular session: 50% thought the House was justified, 17% thought they were not, and 33% held no opinion.

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categoryTotal
Yes, justified50%
No, not justified17%
Don't know/No opinion33%

Attitudes on the impeachment among Republican voters showed a slight, but not statistically meaningful, movement in Paxton’s favor since June, with a large share still undecided. Overall Texas Republicans remain divided in their assessment of the House’s decision to impeach: 28% said Paxton’s impeachment by the House was justified, down slightly from 31% in June, while 33% said it was not justified, 3 percentage points higher than in June. The plurality, 39%, again declined to provide an opinion, unchanged from June. Among independents, 42% said the House’s actions against Paxton were justified, 13% said they were unjustified, while 45% held no opinion or didn’t know enough to say (statistically indistinguishable from June polling). Three-quarters of Democratic voters (75%) remain firm in their position that the house was justified in impeaching Paxton, with 4% saying the House was unjustified, and 21% holding no opinion (also statistically indistinguishable from June polling).

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Yes, justified75%42%28%
No, not justified4%13%33%
Don't know/No opinion21%45%39%

Paxton registered his lowest job approval rating from among 14 polls conducted since April 2021. Only 27% approved of the job he has done as attorney general, his lowest positive rating in that period, while 46% disapproved, his highest disapproval rating in that period, for a net approval of -19 (decreasing from his previous low of -11 in June).

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categoryTotal
Approve strongly12%
Approve somewhat15%
Neither approve nor disapprove18%
Disapprove somewhat9%
Disapprove strongly37%
Don't know10%

The suspended Attorney General’s job approval ratings among Republicans have slipped slightly in the same period, from 51% approving and 19% disapproving in June to 46% approving and 23% disapproving in June. These results represent Paxton’s highest disapproval and lowest approval ratings among Republican voters in the time series. His disapproval numbers among independents jumped from 40% to 51%, while his approval numbers remained unchanged at 21%.

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Q8DApproveDisapproveDon't know
Apr. 202159%11%30%
June 202158%10%32%
Aug. 202161%11%28%
Oct. 202165%12%23%
Feb. 202255%13%31%
Apr. 202262%8%30%
June 202260%15%25%
Aug. 202266%13%22%
Oct. 202265%12%24%
Dec. 202273%7%19%
Feb. 202365%9%27%
Apr. 202365%13%23%
June 202351%19%30%
Aug. 202346%23%31%
Oct. 202350%20%30%
Dec. 202358%15%28%
Feb. 202461%16%23%
Apr. 202461%14%25%

Attention to Paxton’s impeachment and trial did not increase over the summer, even as Paxton’s defense and the House managers exchanged pointed arguments in motions before the impeachment court, and political reporters wrote numerous stories based on the reams of evidence made public by the prosecution. 

In the August poll, 31% of voters said that they had heard “a lot” in the news about Paxton’s legal problems, unchanged from the share who said the same in June. Asked more specifically about how much they had heard about the impeachment and pending trial, 28% said they had heard “a lot,” 39% said they had heard “some,” while 34% said that they had heard either “not very much” (19%) or "nothing at all" (14%).

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categoryTotal
A lot28%
Some39%
Not very much19%
Nothing at all14%

More Paxton approval trend

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Q8DApproveDisapproveDon't know
Apr. 20215%68%27%
June 20217%66%27%
Aug. 20215%72%23%
Oct. 20213%68%29%
Feb. 202210%61%29%
Apr. 20226%69%25%
June 20225%73%21%
Aug. 20229%71%20%
Oct. 20226%70%23%
Dec. 202211%70%18%
Feb. 202312%71%15%
Apr. 202317%62%21%
June 202310%69%20%
Aug. 202312%71%19%
Oct. 202312%70%18%
Dec. 202313%68%18%
Feb. 202424%60%16%
Apr. 202422%59%18%

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Q8DApproveDisapproveDon't know
Apr. 202123%26%52%
June 202124%33%43%
Aug. 202132%37%31%
Oct. 202126%36%38%
Feb. 202222%38%41%
Apr. 202221%36%44%
June 202223%37%40%
Aug. 202231%36%34%
Oct. 202231%35%33%
Dec. 202234%43%23%
Feb. 202325%31%43%
Apr. 202319%44%38%
June 202321%40%38%
Aug. 202321%51%27%
Oct. 202320%53%26%
Dec. 202328%45%27%
Feb. 202426%43%31%
Apr. 202428%35%37%

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Q8DApproveDisapproveDon't know
Apr. 202160%12%27%
June 202159%12%29%
Aug. 202162%12%27%
Oct. 202166%10%23%
Feb. 202256%15%29%
Apr. 202262%10%27%
June 202259%16%25%
Aug. 202265%14%21%
Oct. 202264%12%24%
Dec. 202270%11%18%
Feb. 202363%10%26%
Apr. 202363%13%24%
June 202350%23%27%
Aug. 202346%22%32%
Oct. 202354%20%26%
Dec. 202361%16%24%
Feb. 202463%16%22%
Apr. 202462%13%25%

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Q8DApproveDisapproveDon't know
Apr. 202134%25%40%
June 202138%28%35%
Aug. 202140%26%34%
Oct. 202148%23%29%
Feb. 202243%25%32%
Apr. 202243%24%33%
June 202244%24%32%
Aug. 202249%26%25%
Oct. 202250%23%27%
Dec. 202253%28%19%
Feb. 202345%25%30%
Apr. 202350%25%24%
June 202336%33%31%
Aug. 202335%36%29%
Oct. 202334%39%28%
Dec. 202350%26%25%
Feb. 202446%35%20%
Apr. 202450%24%25%

For more discussion of the poll release, listen to a new Second Reading podcast with Jim Henson and Josh Blank discussing the results.

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Keywords: impeachment, ken paxton