AUSTIN, Texas — If the 2012 Republican primary for president were held this fall, Herman Cain and Rick Perry would be in a virtual tie in Texas, according to a University of Texas at Austin/Texas Tribune poll.
The statewide poll of 800 registered voters conducted Oct. 19-26 shows a close race. Cain's surging popularity in the Lone Star state follows a national trend. The one-point margin separating Cain and Perry at the top of the race is well within the poll's 5.2-percentage point margin of error.
When asked whom they would vote for if the 2012 Republican primary election for president were held today, 27 percent of respondents chose Cain. Perry received 26 percent support, followed by Ron Paul at 12 percent, Mitt Romney at 9 percent and Newt Gingrich at 8 percent. Eleven percent said they are undecided.
"We are seeing a very unsettled political playing field, even in Gov. Perry's home state," says James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project and a lecturer in the Department of Government at The University of Texas at Austin, who oversees the survey. "Cain's surge in popularity in Texas is following what we see at the national level."
"For Gov. Perry, the news is mixed," says Daron Shaw, professor of Government at The University of Texas at Austin, who also oversees the survey.
"The current GOP primary ballot numbers represent a substantial improvement over his showing in our last poll," he adds. "On the other hand, he is not dominating here the way one might have expected."
If the 2012 general election for U.S. president were held today and Perry was the Republican nominee, 45 percent of the respondents said they would vote for him compared with 37 percent who would vote for President Barack Obama. Given a Cain and Obama matchup, 40 percent of the poll respondents would opt for Cain compared with 35 percent for Obama. The margin of error for this result is +/- 3.5 points.
"Unsurprisingly, because the poll is a representative sample of all registered voters in Texas, President Obama fares better overall than if we were to concentrate on those who are most likely to vote in 2012," Shaw says. "For example, Gov. Perry leads Mr. Obama 44 to 39 percent among registrants, but Perry leads by 17 points (53 to 36 percent) among the 55 percent or so who say they are 'extremely interested' in politics.
"Even Gov. Romney, who is the weakest of the major GOP contenders in Texas, goes from a dead-heat to an 11 point lead over Obama when we focus on those who are most interested and therefore most likely to show up for the general election," he adds.
Obama continues to remain unpopular in Texas, with 57 percent disapproving of his performance as president (49 percent strongly disapproving). Moreover, 60 percent of respondents disapprove of the president's handling of the economy, with a majority (53 percent) disapproving strongly.
In terms of the economy, Perry fared better than the president, with 41 percent of respondents approving and 47 percent disapproving of his handling of it. There's much debate about the reasons the Texas economy has fared better than that of the nation. Perry has claimed credit for some of this success. However, almost two-thirds of respondents (65 percent) attribute this to the state's long-standing economic polices such as constitutional requirements for a balanced budget, no income tax and a lenient regulatory environment.
When asked to rate Perry's overall job as governor, 39 percent of respondents approve and 44 percent disapprove.
This is the latest in a series of online polls conducted by the Texas Politics Project and the Texas Tribune . Poll results will appear first in the Texas Tribune.
Comprehensive poll results, information about methodology and the survey dataset will be available at the Texas Politics Project website later this week. Additional poll results will be released and available at the website throughout the week.
As part of the survey, YouGovPolimetrix interviewed 889 respondents Oct. 19-26 who were then matched down to a sample of 800 to produce the final dataset. The respondents were matched on gender, age, race, education, party identification, ideology and political interest. YouGovPolimetrix then weighted the matched set of survey respondents to known marginals for the registered voters of Texas from the 2008 Current Population Survey and the 2007 Pew Religious Life Survey.