Texas Senate race tightens: Democrat Beto O'Rourke trails Ted Cruz by 3 points in new Emerson poll

Could O'Rourke unseat the GOP's Cruz and turn solidly-red Texas purple? Here is what the latest available data says

Published November 1, 2018 9:06PM (EDT)

Beto O'Rourke; Ted Cruz (Getty/Tom Reel/Photo Montage by Salon)
Beto O'Rourke; Ted Cruz (Getty/Tom Reel/Photo Montage by Salon)

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has a narrow lead over Rep. Beto O'Rourke, his Democratic challenger, five days before next week's midterm elections, according to the results of a new Emerson College poll released Thursday.

The survey found that Cruz tops O'Rourke by three points — 50 percent to 47 among likely Texas voters, with two percent undecided — in what is perhaps the most closely-watched Senate race of 2018. It is the latest poll revealing a tightening race in Texas as Election Day looms closer.

While O'Rourke's three point margin is reduced from the five point margin that had separated the two candidates in a previous Emerson College poll released in early October — when Cruz was ahead of O'Rourke by 47 percent to 42 percent — it remains to be seen if O'Rourke has a chance of unseating Cruz on Election Day to turn solidly-red Texas purple. The current Real Clear Politics polling average shows Cruz with an overall lead of 6.5 percentage points.

The poll also reveals that Cruz bests O'Rourke in positive favorability. The Republican candidate has a positive 51 percent favorable rating to 44 percent unfavorable rating among likely voters, with five percent unsure. O'Rourke's favorability rating among likely voters is split 48 percent favorable to 44 percent unfavorable, with seven percent unsure.

The latest poll suggests that O'Rourke's favorability has taken a slight hit from the 50 percent rating he received in early October in the previous Emerson College poll, while his unfavorable rating is up to 44 percent from 38 percent. Meanwhile, Cruz's favorability rating is up from 48 percent, while his unfavorable rating has remained the same.

A Quinnipiac poll released Monday found that Cruz had a five-point lead over O'Rourke — 51 percent to 46 percent points. Other surveys released in October showed Cruz with anywhere from a 5-point to a 10-point edge, according to the RealClearPolitics polling index. The Cook Political Report has labeled the race as a toss-up.

However, an analysis of early voting from the political data firm Target Smart could provide a glimmer of hope, according to Newsweek:

Early voting data from Texas shows a 508 percent growth in the youth vote since 2014, which is likely good news for Democratic Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke.

With just one week until the midterm elections, polls indicate that the El Paso congressman and Texas senatorial candidate has a 5-point gap to bridge in order to catch his competitor, incumbent Senator Ted Cruz. But O’Rourke has long insisted that a large chunk of his supporters, Texans under 30 and Hispanic voters, don’t show up in those polling numbers. New data from Target Smart, a political data firm, would appear to back his claims.

. . . In an analysis of early voting numbers, Target Smart found that more than 200,000 people have already voted for the first time in Texas and the number of Hispanic voters has increased by more than 200 percent since 2014. Polls have been open since last Monday.

The poll of 781 adults in Texas was conducted by Emerson College from Oct. 28 through Oct. 30. The margin of error for total respondents in Texas is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

By Shira Tarlo

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