A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows a tight race in Texas between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Beto O'Rourke for Cruz's Senate seat.
Forty-seven percent of Texas registered voters back Cruz, the Republican incumbent, and 44% favor O'Rourke, the Democratic underdog from El Paso. Both figures fall within the margin of error in the poll, the first major look at the blockbuster Lone Star State race. The election is a crucial midterm race, with Republicans attempting to hold on to, if not grow, a razor-thin 51-49 seat advantage in the Senate. Texas is a historically red state, where Democrats haven't won a statewide election since 1994 and a US Senate race since 1988.
The poll found wide gaps by registered voters' gender, age and race. Cruz led among voters who are white, male and older than 65. O'Rourke had the edge in the black, Hispanic, female and 18 to 34 years old demographics.
Fifty-nine percent of white voters selected Cruz, while 34% chose O'Rourke. Among black and Hispanic voters, O'Rouke led Cruz by 78%-18% and 51%-33%, respectively.
Men backed Cruz by an 11-point margin (51%-40%), and women favored O'Rourke by a 4-point edge (47%-43%).
O'Rourke attracted a younger group of supporters with a 16-point advantage (50%-34%) among the 18- to 34-year-old demographic. Cruz led among voters over 65 years old by 7 points (50%-43%).
O'Rourke also was winning among independent voters, the poll found, drawing 51% of the independent vote compared with Cruz's 37%.
"The key may well be independent voters," said Peter A. Brown, the poll's assistant director. "O'Rourke's 51-37% lead among that group is key to his standing today. But Texas remains a strong GOP state, so O'Rourke will need the independent strength to pull the upset."
Additionally, the poll found that more than half of Texas voters (53%) said they didn't know O'Rourke well enough to form opinions about him.
Trump's role in Texas
A nearly equal amount of Texas voters said they plan to express their support for President Donald Trump (26%) or opposition to him (27%) through their US Senate votes. Forty-three percent said Trump will not be an important factor in their choice in the race.
The poll also found that 43% approve and 52% disapprove of Trump's job performance. The results strongly broke down by partisan lines, with 90% of Texas Democrats disapproving of Trump and 85% of Texas Republicans approving of the way the President is handling his job.
The poll surveyed 1,029 registered Texas voters by telephone April 12-17. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.