Bernie Sanders looks set to go into the Texas primary as the favorite among Democrat voters. Since September, he has managed to double support for his candidacy, driven by the support of Hispanics in the state, according to a new statewide poll by Univision News and the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston.
Although Sanders' 'Medicare For All' proposal to provide universal health care access has great support among respondents, his self-described 'socialist' political platform generates a lot of distrust in the state.
Some 26% of Texans registered to vote say they will support Sanders, compared to 13% who supported him in September, when Joe Biden was the prefered candidate with 20%. The former vice president has failed to gain ground and remains stuck on 20%.
Among Hispanics, the senator is doing even better: 31% say he will support him, almost twice as much as in September. This increase comes after the exit from the race of the two Texans aspiring to the Democratic nomination: Beto O'Rourke and Julián Castro, who were polling at 19% and 12% support respectively a few months ago.
Billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who is on the ballot for the first time in this election, is tied with Biden for second place among Texas Democrats. And he surpasses Biden (23% versus 19%) among Latinos in the state.
Some 30% of Texans eligible to vote in the state are Latino, according to the Pew Research Center. Therefore, if they turn out to vote, their support can be vital to any candidate who wants to win the state.
With that in mind, the Sanders campaign reached out early to the Hispanic community and the senator has used his own European immigrant roots to connect with them. In 2016, Hillary Clinton conquered Texas comfortably, winning 65% support against Sanders, who that time trailed with 33% .
For Hispanics, however, one of the main attractions of the Sanders campaign is health care. Some 81% of Latinos in the state say they are strongly in favor or somewhat in favor of Medicare for All, the campaign's flagship program.
Among Texans in general, 66% are very much or somewhat in favor. Texas is the state with the highest rate of people without health insurance, twice the overall rate in the country.
Likewise, when the Univision News poll asked what are the aspects that Hispanics most want the president and Congress to deal with, reducing health costs is ranked first (35%), followed by improving salaries (23%) and creating more jobs (18%).
On the other hand, many Texans in general, and Latinos in particular, are turned off by his association with socialism. According to the survey, neither Latinos nor the general Texas population looks favorably on a candidate described as "socialist."
About 56% of voters in the state and 52% of Latinos say they are much less likely or somewhat less likely to vote for a candidate with that label. If the term 'democratic socialist' is used - as Sanders describes himself - the rejection rate is similar among Texans in general (54%), but decreases eight points among Latinos (to 44%).
Eight months before the presidential elections, Texas looks to be a toss-up state. Nearly half of Texans registered to vote (46%) say they will support the Democratic candidate for the presidency, or are inclined to support him, while the other half (45%) say they will support President Donald Trump or are leaning that way.
The percentage of support for Democrats in the state is similar to that found in a survey conducted in September, but unlike a few months ago, when Sanders was six points ahead of Trump, the new poll leaves the Democratic candidates in a virtual tie with the president (within the margin of error).
Despite having added support, Sanders and Trump would both get 45% of the vote, the new poll found. No Democrat has managed to win in Texas in 40 years, while Trump won handily in 2016 by nine points, the narrowest margin for a Republican presidential candidate in two decades.
Methodology: On behalf of Univision Communications Inc., Latino Decisions conducted a statewide poll of Texas registered voters with an oversample of Texas Latinos. The poll was overseen by Univision polling director Dr. Sergio Garcia-Rios. Overall 1,004 Texas registered voters, including 504 Latinos, were interviewed from a combination of landline, cell phone, and online completion modes. All voters were randomly selected and given the opportunity to complete the interview in English or Spanish, at their discretion. Randomized stratified quota sampling was employed to ensure the appropriate balance of Latinos across state, gender, age, education, and nativity. Post-stratification weights were applied to bring the sample into alignment with the Census CPS estimates of registered voters in Texas. Overall 9% of interviews were in Spanish and 91% in English; 24% Spanish and 76% English among the Latino sample. The final Texas statewide survey contains an overall design error of +/- 3.1%. For the Latino sample the possible error is 4.4%. The margin of error for the registered Democrats statewide is +/-4.3% and +/- 5.5% for Latino Democrats. The survey was in the field February 21-26, 2020.