In a development likely to appear in Democratic (and Republican) fundraising appeals, a new Quinnipiac University poll (PDF) suggests a tight race for U.S. Senate and a wider, but still single-digit, race for governor. Suffice it to say, a poll taken six months before early voting begins should be taken with some salt.

According to the poll, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R) leads U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso), 47%-44%, among all voters. O’Rourke is preferred among African-Americans (78%-18%), Hispanics/Latinos (51%-33%), “independents” (51%-35%), women (47%-43%) and voters aged 18 to 34 (50%-34%). Cruz is preferred among Anglos (59%-34%), voters aged 50 to 64 (53%-41%), men (51%-40%), voters aged 65 and older (50%-43%) and voters aged 35 to 49 (48%-45%).

Overall, Cruz has a net favorability rating of 46/44. O’Rourke’s rating is 30/16, suggesting he is generally viewed more favorably by voters who know who he is, but more than half of voters polled “haven’t heard enough” to form an opinion.

While the closeness of the horse race is highly questionable, the poll does highlight three of O’Rourke’s significant weaknesses in this race:

  • Low name identification
  • Relatively low performance among Hispanic/Latino voters (+18); and
  • One of his strongest constituencies, young voters, cast ballots at a far lower rate than one of Cruz’s strongest constituencies, voters 50 and over.

The poll was conducted six weeks after a primary and more than six months before the start of early voting. Cruz did not have to expend significant resources to win his primary, so many of his campaign’s messages have not been broadcast or otherwise sent to voters.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) fares better. He leads Lupe Valdez, 49%-40%, and Andrew White, 48%-41%, among all voters. The Democrats fare best among the same groups that preferred O’Rourke. Interestingly, Valdez does no better among Hispanics/Latinos than White, statistically speaking. Valdez leads Abbott, 51%-47%, among Hispanics/Latinos while White leads, 49%-36%.

Abbott’s net favorability rating is 51/33, significantly better than Cruz, and his potential opponents’ name identifications are south of O’Rourke. Valdez is largely unknown to 65% of all voters (53% of self-identified Democrats), and 72% of all voters (60% of Democrats) “haven’t heard enough” to form an opinion of White.

The poll of 1,029 “Texas voters” was conducted by live interviewers on landlines and mobile phones. It was in the field April 12-17 and has a stated margin of error of ±3.6%. When asked to identify their political affiliation, 31% said Republican, 24% said Democrat and 36% said they were independent.

In addition, the poll’s sample was labeled as “Texas voters,” but the methodology (PDF) did not appear to account for the frequency of past voting or the likelihood of future voting. We know from several other polls that the level of support for Democratic candidates shrinks as the likelihood (or past history) of voting increases.

In April 2014, a Public Policy Polling survey indicated Abbott, then the attorney general, led then-Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) by 14 points, and Abbott had a 40/27 net favorability rating. Davis was better known than the Democrats running this year but less liked. Her rating was 33/47. Abbott would go on to win, 59%-39%.

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