This is the first in a series of analyses exploring the political climate of Texas entering the 2016 general election. 

Generally speaking, satisfied voters tend to want to keep the status quo, because they feel optimistic that it’s working. Generally speaking, large-scale political shifts follow high levels of dissatisfaction.

Texans’ belief that the country is on the wrong track while the state is on a significantly better track has been a staple of state politics for at least a decade, and it has cemented Republicans’ hold on power at virtually all levels of government.

Heading into the 2014 general election, just 25% of Texas voters – the vast majority of whom were self-identified “strong” or “weak” Democrats – believed the country was headed in the right direction* while 65% said it was on the wrong track, according to an October 2014 UT/Texas Tribune poll (pdf). Meanwhile, 48% of voters believed the state of Texas was headed in the right direction versus 35% who thought it was headed in the wrong direction. These sentiments put strong headwinds in the path of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, who ended up losing to then-Attorney General Greg Abbott, 59%-39%.

The charts below show the net right track/wrong track sentiment of Texans for the country and the state of Texas, based on results of University of Texas polls conducted since October 2009. In all of those polls, respondents were asked about whether “things are headed in the right direction or … headed off on the wrong track” for the country and the state of Texas.

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