Number of times U.S. presidential election turnout in Texas has dropped in consecutive election cycles.
In 1900, 22% fewer votes were cast in the presidential election than in 1896. The state instituted a poll tax in 1902, and the number of votes cast dropped 45% from 1900. Overall, the number of votes cast in the 1904 presidential election dropped 57% from the 1896 presidential election. Turnout increased every presidential election after that, but it took until 1924 for the number of votes cast in Texas to exceed the 1896 total of 545K.
Turnout has otherwise fallen four other times since then: 1936, 1956, 1996 and 2012. The first two times occurred during years in which a poll tax was assessed. The latter two times occurred much more recently. We mention it now because a potential consequence of the nominations of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is that turnout in Texas may fall for a second consecutive presidential election cycle for only the second time in state history.
The most recent UT/Texas Tribune poll indicated that 59% of respondents viewed Trump unfavorably (44% very unfavorably), and 53% viewed Clinton unfavorably (46% very unfavorably). Self-identified Republicans find both candidates unappealing:
- Strong Republican: Trump 50/40 and Clinton 3/95
- “Not Very Strong” Republican: Trump 46/42 and Clinton 6/83
- Lean Republican: Trump 42/46 and Clinton 3/94
Self-Identified Democrats strongly dislike Trump and are warmer to Clinton than Republicans are to Trump, but her popularity sinks as respondents’ dedication to the Democratic Party wanes:
- Strong Democrat: Trump 9/82 and Clinton 82/8
- “Not Very Strong” Democrat: Trump 17/67 and Clinton 57/19
- Lean Democrat: Trump 11/81 and Clinton 53/28
Both candidates are underwater with independent voters. Trump’s favorability rating among independent voters was 32/55 and Clinton’s was 18/60.
Both candidates are viewed most favorably by the strongest of their partisans, and voters’ views of the candidates grow more unfavorable the closer to independent, or “swing,” voters they become. In Texas, there may not be a “Trump effect” — a negative coattail on Republican candidates down the ballot — as much as there may be an exodus of independent and “leaning” voters. This would increase the impact of straight-ticket voters even more than usual, and that can have some profound implications on a handful of down-ballot races.
We’ll explore these through the summer.