Three new polls paint a picture of a close but muddled presidential race in Texas and leads of various sizes for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R):

The three polls follow a Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler poll (DMN/UT-Tyler) found Biden ahead, 48%-45%, and Cornyn leading, 42%-34%. All four of these polls were in the field at roughly the same time: October 13-20, October 22-25, October 20-25 and October 13-20, respectively.

Three of the polls – D4P did not provide crosstabs – differ widely on several groups:

  • Women – Biden +4 (U of H), Biden +10 (NYT/Siena), tied (DMN/UT-Tyler), at least among Latino/Hispanic and Anglo women
  • Independent voters – Trump +17 (U of H), Trump +1 (NYT/Siena), Biden +22 (DMN/UT-Tyler)
  • Hispanic/Latino voters – Biden +18 (U of H), Biden +23 (NYT/Siena), Biden +48 (DMN/UT-Tyler)
  • Anglo voters with at least a bachelor’s degree – Trump +18 (U of H), Trump +16 (NYT/Siena), Trump +26 (DMN/UT-Tyler)
  • Younger voters – Biden +18 among Millennials and Gen. Z (U of H), Biden +22 among voters younger than 30 and Trump +6 among voters aged 30-44 (NYT/Siena), Biden +63 among voters under 25 and Biden +19 among voters aged 25-34.

Keep in mind that margins of error are wider as samples get broken up into subgroups.

Pollsters are having to make assumptions about the roughly million people who have cast ballots so far who have no recent election history. Variations in those assumptions and the weights they apply to make the sample more representative of expected turnout can produce some significantly different results. These variations are magnified when a race is close, but the fact is that they vary just as much when a candidate is leading by 20 points. The difference is, you don’t typically get four polls released within two days of each other when the key race isn’t close.

The New York Times story by Nate Cohn discussing the NYT/Siena poll had some interesting additional data points that were not contained in the crosstabs:

  • Biden leads Trump, 48%-43%, “across the 12 predominantly suburban districts that the Cook Political Report has rated as competitive.” These are the districts we have rated as Lean or Toss Up plus a pair of Likely Democratic seats that flipped in 2018. “These districts voted for the president by eight points in 2016.”
  • Trump leads Biden by 2 points among Anglo college-educated voters in these 12 districts. This group of voters “backed Mr. Trump by 24 points” in 2016.
  • Trump has improved his standing among Hispanic/Latino voters. Biden leads him by 23 points among this group. The 2016 NYT/Siena poll had Hillary Clinton ahead by 31 points.
  • Trump “also shows modest but meaningful strength among Black voters” who currently back Biden, 78%-12%, a narrower margin than their 86%-8% support for Clinton.
  • Anglo rural voters remain a stronghold for Trump. They favor him, 80%-15%.

“As a result, Biden has not improved over Clinton’s performance at all outside of the well-educated, competitive and fast-changing districts,” Cohn wrote.

Counties with fewer than 250K registered voters have consistently provided Republicans with 1.1 to 1.3M-vote surplus that has more than offset Democratic gains in counties with more than 250K voters. In counties with fewer than 20K registered voters, Trump received 332K more votes than Clinton, up 51K from 2012 and 80K from 2008. It is not surprising that Biden is polling poorly in these counties. Republican vote percentages have been resembling West Texas highway speed limit signs since the Obama presidency.

The problem for Republicans is, the growth rate of registered voters in those smaller counties is essentially flat. Since 2004, the number of registered voters has increased 8% in counties that currently have fewer than 50K registered voters. Over the same period, the number of registered voters in counties with at least 250K of them has increased 37%.

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The 1.8M new voter registrations in the state since Trump was elected is comprised of 547K in counties with fewer than 250K registered voters and 1.23M in counties with more than 250K registered voters today. This growth pattern along with the increasing diversity of the electorate and higher participation by younger voters combine to create opportunities for Democrats down the ballot to win seats in traditionally Republican areas. That 1M-plus vote bank in the smaller counties may still be too much to overcome at the state level. As these and most polls this year indicate, that gap is narrowing.

Early voting continues through Friday for an unprecedented third week. As of yesterday (Sunday), the first-ever 13th day of early voting, 7.4M Texans have already voted, representing 43.6% of registered voters. By one tenth of a point, this is the highest percentage turnout voting early in state history. The number of early votes statewide is equal to 83% of the total number of votes cast in 2016, including Election Day.

Turnout exceeds 50% of registered voters in McCulloch (67.8%), Blanco (55.3%), Collin (54.8%), Kendall (54.3%), Williamson (53.9%), Mason (53.3%), Comal (53.2%), Denton (53.1%), Jeff Davis (52.2%), Rockwall (51.4%), Bandera (51.0%), Fort Bend (50.8%), Kerr (50.4%) and Llano (50.3%) Cos.

In the 15 counties with the most registered voters, 111K people voted yesterday, making it the smallest single-day total so far. Sunday is typically the lowest day for participation. Just over 5M people have voted so far in these counties.

According to Republican strategist and data nerd Derek Ryan, 81.5% of people who voted in the last four Republican primaries and 86.4% of those who voted in the last four Democratic primaries have already voted. Two thirds of people who have voted in the last four general elections but none of the primaries have already voted, and just 28% of voters who have participated in any one of the last four general elections and no primaries have already cast their ballots. His analysis looks at the 30 counties with the most registered voters.

One out of every seven ballots cast in those 30 counties is by a first-time voter, or at least someone who hasn’t participated in any general or primary election in Texas since 2010. In Collin and Denton Cos., about 30% of registered voters with no prior/recent history have already voted, an astoundingly high percentage. More than 25% of such registered voters have already cast ballots in Comal, Fort Bend and Williamson Cos. Just under 25% have voted in Hays Co.

Campaign Finance: State candidates on the general election ballot filed their 8-day-out reports today (Monday). These should be available online beginning tomorrow (Tuesday), and we will begin analyzing them. These reports disclose contributions received and expenditures made from September 25 to October 24. Any contributions received after October 24 must be disclosed in daily reports.

House Speaker: Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) filed paperwork establishing himself as a candidate for Speaker. He joins Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) as the only declared candidates.

RRC (Lean Republican): Former New York Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate contributed $2.6M to Democratic nominee Chrysta Castañeda’s campaign. The contribution was announced on the day on which it would have been publicly disclosed. It is the largest single contribution reported in Texas this year to date, eclipsing Las Vegas, Nev. casino owner Sheldon Adelson’s $2.5M contribution to the Republican State Leadership Committee. His wife, a Las Vegas physician, contributed another $2M to that PAC.

AG (2022): Various news outlets reported that Land Comm. George P. Bush (R) was being contacted by donors for a potential primary challenge of Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton (R).

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