Polling and Primary Madness: Texas Data Points from the Week in Politics, February 26 2016.

While we found the most recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll chock full of fascinating results on attitudes toward issues that illuminate much of the recent political discussion in the 2016 races in both Texas and the U.S., with the Texas primary coming up Tuesday it seems appropriate and traffic-conscious to look at some of the undercurrents of the results from the trial ballots in the presidential nominating contests. Without further ado...except remember that you can click on the legends in most of the graphics below to toggle the results on and off to give yourself a more customized view.

1. The latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll found Senator, Ted Cruz, leading among likely Republican Primary voters by 8 points over Donald Trump heading into Tuesday’s contest. Some of Cruz’s biggest leads came among voters who described themselves as “extremely conservative” and those who identified with the Tea Party – two groups that have recently made up very large shares of the Republican Primary electorate. Texas, however, remains part of the broader American political system, despite occasional appearances (and declarations) to the contrary, and this can be seen in the fact that Donald Trump continues to attract the interest of Texas Republicans in ways similar to his successes in other parts of the Republic thus far: he draws support from a broad array of GOP constituencies without dominating any of them, even as he alienates a good chunk of Republicans and Democrats alike who think he’d make a terrible president.  

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Ted Cruz37%
Donald J. Trump29%
Marco Rubio14%
Jeb Bush6%
Ben Carson5%
John R. Kasich5%
Rand Paul2%
Carly Fiorina1%
Elizabeth Gray1%
Rick Santorum1%
Chris Christie0%
Lindsey Graham0%
Mike Huckabee0%

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categoryLeaning conservativeSomewhat conservativeExtremely conservative
Ted Cruz22%44%57%
Donald J. Trump31%24%26%
Marco Rubio27%14%4%
Jeb Bush4%5%2%
Ben Carson5%3%7%
John R. Kasich8%4%1%
Rand Paul1%2%2%
Carly Fiorina2%1%0%
Elizabeth Gray0%2%0%
Rick Santorum0%0%1%
Chris Christie0%0%0%
Lindsey Graham0%0%0%
Mike Huckabee1%1%0%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Ted Cruz5%32%56%
Donald J. Trump36%30%26%
Marco Rubio20%18%8%
Jeb Bush17%9%0%
Ben Carson5%4%3%
John R. Kasich8%4%3%
Rand Paul0%0%3%
Carly Fiorina0%1%1%
Elizabeth Gray4%1%0%
Rick Santorum5%1%0%
Chris Christie0%0%0%
Lindsey Graham0%0%0%
Mike Huckabee0%0%0%

2. Even though Cruz has an expected lead in his home state, his many months of campaigning, with all of the attention, back-and-forths, and distinction drawing, has dented his still sterling favorability numbers and approval ratings among his core supporters here at home. In November of 2015, Cruz was viewed favorably by 71 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of conservatives, and a whopping 89 percent of those Republicans who identify with the Tea Party. Today, those favorability ratings have dropped by 7, 7, and 11 points, respectively. No matter how this race concludes, we would expect these numbers to rebound some back to their astronomically high levels once the face punching stops.

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Very favorable3%30%70%
Somewhat favorable5%32%19%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable14%11%5%
Somewhat unfavorable8%11%5%
Very unfavorable65%10%0%
Don't know / No opinion4%6%1%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Very favorable3%23%47%
Somewhat favorable8%32%31%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable11%11%10%
Somewhat unfavorable8%14%5%
Very unfavorable67%18%6%
Don't know/no opinion3%2%1%

3. The Democratic race still sees Hillary Clinton with a sizable lead over Bernie Sanders, but a much tighter race than a few months ago. In November, when asking self-identified Democratic Primary voters who they would choose in the primary, Clinton led Sanders by 31 points with 61 percent of the vote to Sanders 30. But since then, Sanders nearly tied in the Iowa caucuses, won the New Hampshire Primary, and has continued to keep a close pace with Clinton in electoral results, if not in the overall delegate count. All this has allowed Sanders to be introduced to a far wider swath of the potential Democratic electorate, and is a great demonstration of how the retail politicking of the early contests gets translated into votes in the increasingly crowded election calendar with the media attention that those early results brings. In the most recent poll, when looking at likely Democratic Primary voters, Clinton’s lead was a still-solid 10 points, leading 54 percent to Sanders’ 44 percent. The big question regarding this margin is the composition of the electorate, and in particular, how large the non-white composition will be on election day. If it’s larger than usual, expect Clinton’s lead to grow; if it’s smaller, expect a tighter race on the Democratic side. Data collection for this poll also took place in a very sweet spot for Senator Sanders – right after his win in New Hampshire and a slew of positive media coverage for him alongside the very public hand wringing about Secretary Clinton, and right before Clinton’s win in the Nevada caucuses and the onset of doubts about Sanders’ appeal to non-White Democrats. It wasn’t May Day, but it was nonetheless, on balance, a very propitious time for Sanders.

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Hillary Clinton54%
Bernie Sanders44%
Martin J. O'Malley1%
Roque 'Rocky' De La Fuente1%
Willie L. Wilson1%
Keith Judd0%

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Hillary Clinton43%73%60%
Bernie Sanders54%25%36%
Martin J. O'Malley1%0%1%
Roque 'Rocky' De La Fuente0%0%3%
Willie L. Wilson1%2%0%
Keith Judd0%1%0%

4. Despite the media’s insistence on this being the year that voters want to shake things up, only 15 percent of likely Republican Primary voters and 9 percent of likely Democratic Primary voters cited this as the primary reason for their vote choice. Among Republicans, the primary drive of their vote – wait for it – improving the economy (21 percent) and nominating a candidate who will give the party a chance to win in November (20 percent). Among Democrats, winning in November (23 percent) and improving the economy (18 percent). There are definitely some interesting differences among different sub-groups, and even more interesting differences among the coalitions of the candidates, all of which can be explored here<-- https://texaspolitics.utexas.edu/set/most-important-factor-likely-republican-primary-voters-february-2016 --> and here<-- https://texaspolitics.utexas.edu/set/most-important-factor-likely-democratic-primary-voters-february-2016 -->. No one has been spared hearing the endlessly repeated trope that voters have abandoned “politics as usual,” but large shares of voters are thinking about which candidate can win for their party in November – which is pretty old school.

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Improve the American economy21%
Give the Republican Party a good chance to win in November20%
Shake up politics-as-usual15%
Reform immigration policy14%
Fight terrorism10%
Defend my faith and religious values9%
Improve America's standing in the world7%
Work to guarantee equal rights for all groups in society2%
Address economic inequality in the country2%

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Give the Democratic Party a good chance to win in November23%
Improve the American economy18%
Work to guarantee equal rights for all groups in society14%
Address economic inequality in the country14%
Shake up politics-as-usual9%
Reform immigration policy9%
Fight terrorism6%
Improve America's standing in the world4%
Defend my faith and religious values2%

5. Ideological purity has been a consistent theme in both nominating contests this year, and if you’ve read this far, you might be interested in another piece we wrote this week that looks at the likely primary electorate’s perception of the front-runners’ ideological positions in the lead up to Tuesday’s primary.

6.  Ok, can’t help but take at least one election-focused look at the issues. Even though we’re pretty used to it in Texas since (at least) the 2014 GOP primary here, there are still some that can’t quite get their heads around the frankly nativist tone of the GOP presidential primary. But a look at a battery of items we asked on issues related to the presence of non-native born people in the United States (no, we’re not talking about...oh, never mind) suggests that there is a very welcoming audience for proposals such as immediate deportation of undocumented immigrants, banning Muslims from entering the United States, and keeping Syrian refugees out of Texas.  That audience is located squarely if not exclusively in the Republican Party. Republican support for immediate deportation, we should note, long predates Donald Trump’s rise, suggesting that his rhetoric and the attitudes in the current poll are probably, in the current moment, mutually reinforcing. He doesn’t own the issue either: Among likely Republican Primary voters who support banning non-citizen Muslims from entering the U.S., 43 percent said that they would be voting for Cruz, 34 percent for Trump, and 10 percent for Rubio. This is just putting a flag on the topic – we’ll be back to this with more depth later.  (Maybe sooner)

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Strongly agree18%34%43%
Somewhat agree18%22%31%
Somewhat disagree22%19%15%
Strongly disagree37%17%8%
Don't know/No opinion5%8%4%

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Strongly support14%34%37%
Somewhat support15%19%25%
Somewhat oppose23%19%16%
Strongly oppose35%12%12%
Don't know14%16%9%

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Don't know/No opinion12%21%9%