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Hobby School Survey: Allred Holds Wide Lead in Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate

GOP Incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz Leads Top Challengers in Potential November Matchups

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The Democratic contest for U.S. Senate in Texas is effectively a two-person race, with North Texas Congressman Colin Allred leading his nearest challenger, state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, more than three-to-one ahead of the March 5 Texas primary.

The latest report from the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston found 40% of likely Democratic primary voters support Allred, with 12% backing Gutierrez. None of the other seven candidates in the race received support from more than 4% of voters, and 38% said they are undecided.

In a potential primary runoff election, Allred leads Gutierrez 46% to 26%, with 28% undecided.

Mark P. Jones, political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and senior research fellow at the Hobby School, said Allred could win the nomination outright in March.

“Unless Gutierrez is able to positively introduce himself to the two-fifths of likely Democratic primary voters who don’t know anything about him while also peeling off voters who presently support Allred, the Dallas congressman will be well-positioned to win more than 50% of the vote on March 5 and avoid a May runoff,” Jones said.

But incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz leads both Democrats in a November matchup. In a contest with Allred, Cruz is leading by nine points, 48% to 39%, with Libertarian Ted Brown with 4% of the vote and 9% of voters undecided. In a race with Gutierrez, Cruz leads by 10 points, 48% to 38%, with Brown receiving 4% and 10% undecided.

“At a time when there is a lot of talk about which party will control the U.S. Senate, we found very little appetite for crossover voting in this race,” said Renée Cross, senior executive director of the Hobby School and one of the researchers. “Almost nine out of 10 voters who identify as either a Democrat or a Republican say they will support their party’s candidate, and 10% or fewer from either party say they are still undecided.”

Independent voters are split, Cross said. In a November race with Allred, 46% of independents back Cruz, while 19% support Allred and 23% are undecided. If Gutierrez is the Democratic nominee, 43% of independents said they would vote for Cruz and 21% for Gutierrez, with 23% undecided.

Cruz, who is completing his second term in the Senate, is a familiar figure to voters – while they were evenly split on whether they had a favorable (48%) or an unfavorable opinion (49%) of him, just 3% said they didn’t know enough about him to have an opinion.  In contrast, more than half of likely November voters don’t know enough about Allred (or Gutierrez) to have an opinion about them, although those with an opinion of Allred have on balance a favorable opinion, 30% favorable vs. 19% unfavorable.

Texas’ longest-serving senator, John Cornyn, is underwater in terms of favorability. While 31% of likely voters have a favorable impression of him, 51% view him unfavorably. Although he has served in the Senate since 2002, and before that on the state Supreme Court and as Texas attorney general, 18% said they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • In a potential primary runoff, Allred has a substantial lead over Gutierrez among white (57% to 16%) and Black (54% to 19%) likely voters, while Gutierrez leads among Latinos, 41% to 25%.
  • Allred also leads among the silent generation and baby boomers (56% to 18%) and Gen-X (49% to 21%), while Gutierrez leads among the younger millennials and Gen Z, 42% to 28%.
  • In a potential November matchup, Cruz holds a substantial lead over Allred among men, 52% to 36%, while the two are effectively tied among women, 44% to 42%. Cruz leads Allred among white voters, 58% to 32%, and Latino voters, 41% to 37%. Allred leads among Black voters, 75% to 10%.
  • Cruz leads Allred among likely voters with a high school degree or less, while the two are tied at 43% among those with a four-year or post-graduate degree.

Early voting begins Feb. 20.

The full report is available on the Hobby School website. Future reports will examine factors influencing Republican primary voters in Texas state House elections and public opinion regarding school choice/school vouchers and the 2023 impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton. A previous report focused on the presidential primary races and the November presidential election in Texas.

The survey asked 1,500 likely Texas voters about their preferences regarding candidates and policies in the upcoming primary election. It was conducted between January 11 and January 24, 2024, in English and Spanish. The margin of error is +/- 2.5%.

Story by Jeannie Kever

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