U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, holds an 11-percentage point edge over U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, in the race at the top of the November ballot in Texas, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.
Half of Texas voters prefer Cruz in his re-election bid, compared with 39 percent for O’Rourke, the poll says.
That’s a substantially wider margin than in April 18, when another Quinnipiac University poll found Cruz with 47 percent to O’Rourke’s 44 percent.
Cruz apparently benefited from a small shift in national opinion toward Republicans in recent weeks, said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll.
The junior Texas senator and onetime presidential candidate holds a commanding 22-point advantage among men and a 2-point edge among women. In the previous poll, Cruz held an 11-point edge among men, and women preferred O’Rourke by a 4-point margin.
Cruz holds a 2-point edge among Hispanics, and a 34-point lead among white voters. Black voters back O’Rourke by 55 points, according to the poll.
The O’Rourke campaign, searching for good news in the poll results, could latch onto this finding: Half the voters surveyed don’t know enough about O’Rourke to form an opinion.
“It’s early in the race, and so he’s kind of an unknown, so his number might bump around a little bit,” said Kirby Goidel, director of the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University.
Ten percent of voters surveyed said they hadn’t heard enough about Cruz to form an opinion about him.
Goidel also observed that the percentage of self-identified Republicans participating in the survey bumped up from 31 percent in mid-April to 34 percent in the new poll.
“If I’m on the O’Rourke team, I’m more worried about that drop in support,” he said.
Bethany Albertson, a political psychologist in the University of Texas’ government department, said the new numbers confirm the broader partisan dynamics at play in the state.
The wider margin for Cruz “can be partly explained by Cruz hadn’t had a competitive primary and Beto was in the news. Now Cruz is more actively engaged, and O’Rourke is not benefiting from being the fresh new thing. It’s really an uphill battle” for O’Rourke, she said.
In the Texas governor’s race, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leads Democratic former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez with 53 percent to her 34 percent, according to the poll.
Abbott leads by 30 points among men and 8 points among women. Hispanic voters favor Valdez, who won the Democratic primary runoff last week, by just 4 points.
Texas voters give President Donald Trump a split decision, with 47 percent approving of his job and 47 percent disapproving. On April 18, 52 percent of Texans disapproved of Trump’s job, compared with 43 percent who approved.
The poll surveyed 961 Texas voters May 23-29. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points, according to the pollsters.