Ted Cruz leads Colin Allred by double digits in UT poll

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, left, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Credit: The Texas Tribune

With less than five months before Election Day, incumbent Ted Cruz leads Democratic challenger Colin Allred by 11 percentage points in the state’s U.S. Senate race, according to the latest University of Texas/ Texas Politics Project Poll.

Cruz, a Republican who is vying for a third term, was favored by 45% of the survey’s respondents compared to Allred’s 34%. Six percent of voters said they would prefer someone other than Cruz and Allred and 14% said they hadn’t thought about it enough to have an opinion.

Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, said Allred, a three-term Dallas congressman, has “yet to make an impression on a lot of people.”

“Part of the upshot of that is having gone through such a relatively easy primary,” he added. “His lack of recognition at this point is in part a product of the success of his primary strategy which was to ignore his opponent. But the lack of newsworthy in a primary I think hurt him.”

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Allred won a crowded Democratic primary outright in March, besting the second-place challenger state Sen. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio.

Thirty-four percent of voters had a favorable opinion of Allred compared to 24% who had an unfavorable view. But another 24% had neither an unfavorable or favorable view of him and 17% didn’t know or had no opinion.

Cruz for his part is well-known by voters, for better or worse. Forty-six percent of voters had a favorable view of him while 42% disapproved of the job he was doing. Only 8% did not approve or disapprove and 3% did not know.

Importantly, Henson said, Cruz was still holding his grip on GOP voters with 79% of Republicans approving of him and only 11% disapproving.

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“He’s still hanging on to the Republican base,” Henson said.

Henson also said the numbers might reflect an attempt by Cruz’s camp in the last year to highlight his bipartisan work in the Senate.

“There’s been a handful of stories about him getting involved in some bipartisan efforts in the last couple of years. It’s hard not to think of that as deliberate,” Henson added. “To the extent we see some sign that his image is softening with the electorate, that strategy was correct or has been helpful.”

The online survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted between May 31 and June 9 and has a margin of error of 2.83%.

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Voters were also asked whether former President Donald Trump’s convictions in his hush money trial in New York last month made them more or less likely to vote for him.

Thirty-six percent of voters said they were more likely to vote for Trump after the convictions, with 27% of those saying the convictions made them much more likely to do so.

Henson cautioned against reading too much into these numbers.

“A big chunk of that is just more social expression than something that’s shaking up the race in any way,” he said. “[These voters] were pretty likely to vote for him anyway.”

More than half of respondents said the convictions made them less likely or much less likely to vote for him.

The poll also captured the sentiment of voters after a contentious GOP primary season in Texas in which Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton became unusually involved in House races, including in Paxton’s case, targeting Phelan in his primary and endorsing his opponent.

Abbott, who vowed to replace Republican incumbents who voted against his school vouchers proposal, remained the most favorable politician in the state with 50% approval and 39% disapproval.

“The governor’s numbers remain very strong here and I think we shouldn’t be particularly surprised by that,” Henson said. “Gov. Abbott is very attentive to politics and he does a good job of knowing particularly what his base constituency wants.”

Meanwhile, Phelan, who was largely targeted for his support of Paxton’s impeachment and for failing to get vouchers passed in the House, saw some of the lowest approval rating among Texas leaders. Only 24% of voters approved of his job performance while 30% disapproved.

Voters’ views of Paxton have stabilized after the embattled attorney general saw a spike in support among the Republican base last year after being impeached by the House. He was acquitted by the Senate in the fall.

Thirty-six percent of voters approved of Paxton’s job performance, while 38% disapproved.

“It’s fair to say he’s a bit diminished but he’s far from hamstrung,” Hensons said. “His popularity is not what it used to be among Republicans. He’s lost some ground but he’s not lost his footing.”

Border security and immigration remained the most important issue in Texas with 36% of voters saying those two issues were the most important. Last year, Texas Republicans passed a legally dubious law creating a state penalty for illegally entering the country as a way to address the record numbers of migrants entering the country’s southern border.

Voters also continued to be skeptical of the state’s electric grid with 51% saying a widespread failure of the grid is likely. Eighty-four percent of voters said they expected to be asked to conserve electricity during the summer and 63% said it was likely the state would experience rolling blackouts.

Henson said the survey was conducted at the same time that the state’s energy officials were warning people that they may need to conserve energy during the summer, which accounted for some of the responses. But, he said, since the major grid failure in the state in 2021 when millions were left without power for days, Texans have become much more skeptical of the grid’s resilience.

“People’s confidence was shaken and it’s not recovered,” he said. “I think that’s where those expectations that there might be a widespread failure comes from.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.