Less than eight weeks before the November election, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has a 7-point lead over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in Texas among likely voters, but only a 1-point lead among all registered voters, according to results of the Texas Lyceum poll released Thursday.
The poll is the latest to suggest that the deep red state of Texas might witness a closer-than-usual contest this fall. It comes even as new national and battleground state polls show the race tightening and Trump gaining in ways that indicate that a Clinton victory, which just after the party conventions in July seemed almost a foregone conclusion, is now anything but a done deal.
In the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, Trump and Clinton are locked in a tie among likely voters, with 42 percent each, while Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson draws 8 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein claims 4 percent support.
A Rasmussen poll released Thursday has Trump up by 2 points — 42 percent to 40 percent — in a four-way race nationally.
In new results from key states, a Monmouth University poll has Trump leading Clinton by 8 points in Iowa. A Suffolk University poll has Trump up 3 points in Ohio, a Civitas poll has Clinton and Trump tied in North Carolina, and a University of Mary Washington poll has Clinton leading Trump by 3 points in Virginia.
Texas in play?
The Lyceum poll, conducted Sept. 1 through Sunday, shows Trump leading in Texas with 39 percent to Clinton’s 32 percent, Johnson’s 9 percent and Stein’s 3 percent. One-on-one, Trump leads Clinton by 6 points, 42 to 36 percent, suggesting that, in Texas at least, Johnson and Stein aren’t substantially skewing the race.
The Lyceum poll is only the most recent to put the Trump-Clinton spread in Texas in single digits. If that holds, it would be far closer than 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s rout of President Barack Obama in Texas by nearly 16 percentage points, and Obama’s loss in Texas to 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain by just under 12 points.
The Lyceum finding is also significant because it is a poll that relies on telephone interviews, both cellular and land line, conducted in English and Spanish, as opposed to an online survey. And, it reported results for likely voters, which, even in this unusual electoral year, is probably the best predictor of the final result, even if 17 percent of those voters aren’t yet expressing a preference.
The poll of 1,000 Texans included 862 registered voters and 502 likely voters. The margin of error for the total sample is 3.1 percentage points, for the pool of registered voters it’s 3.34 percentage points, and for likely voters it’s 4.37 percentage points.
The larger the electorate, the better for Democrats. The Lyceum poll found that in a four-way race, Clinton has a 4-point advantage over Trump among registered voters in a state that hasn’t voted Democratic in a presidential election since Jimmy Carter narrowly beat President Gerald Ford in 1976.
But, Joshua Blank, the Texas Lyceum research director, said that while the results might foreshadow a tighter race in Texas than usual, it doesn’t mean that Texas, a state where Republicans start out with an 11-point advantage among likely voters, is seriously in play.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if this was a 9- to 12-point race when all is said and done,” said Blank, who is also the manager of polling and research for the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.
The best news for Democrats in the Lyceum poll might be that the surge in Latino turnout that Democrats have been waiting on for years might finally arrive.
The poll’s likely voter pool was 26 percent Hispanic. Usually, Hispanics make up between 17 percent and 21 percent of the Texas electorate, and even if that share only increased into the low 20s, that would be a significant boost for Texas Democrats that they could build on in future elections.
“Democrats have been handed their best opportunity ever to increase Hispanic turnout,” Blank said.
While Clinton leads Trump 39 percent to 27 percent among likely Hispanic voters, that lead isn’t anywhere near as lopsided as her advantage among African-American likely voters, where she leads Trump 69 percent to his 2 percent. Trump leads among Anglo likely voters, 54 percent to Clinton’s 19 percent.
Among Anglo likely voters, Clinton had an abysmal 22 percent to 77 percent favorable-to-unfavorable rating, while Trump had a 2-to-1, 64 percent to 32 percent, positive rating with those voters. By the same ratio, Hispanic likely voters had an unfavorable view of Trump. But, while 55 percent of Hispanic likely voters said they liked Clinton, 43 percent of those respondents didn’t like her.
Clinton was seen by likely voters as better able to handle the issues of education, the environment and foreign policy, while Trump was seen as better able to handle immigration, terrorism, the economy, health care, crime and, especially, changing the culture of Washington, D.C.
American-Statesman chief political writer Jonathan Tilove offers his take on Texas politics mornings at the First Reading blog on mystatesman.com.
Texas poll, among likely voters
Donald Trump (R): 39 percent
Hillary Clinton (D): 32 percent
Gary Johnson (L): 9 percent
Jill Stein (G): 3 percent
Source: Texas Lyceum poll, Sept. 1-Sunday. Margin of error: 4.37 percentage points