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Election 2016 - Harris County

Between September 1 and September 20, 2016, the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs conducted a telephone survey of 550 Harris County registered voters as part of a larger Hobby School study on voter participation and engagement under the direction of Mark P. Jones, Renée Cross, and Jim Granato with Ching-Hsing Wang and Wyman Wan.  The survey was based on a stratified probability design, including both landlines and cell phones.  The survey was available in both English and Spanish using bilingual operators, and lasted an average of 13 minutes.  The final data set was weighted by ethnicity, age, and gender to be representative of Harris County registered voters. The margin of error for the survey results is plus or minus 4 percent (at the 95 percent confidence level). 

Harris County is the third most populous county in the nation and is home to approximately one sixth of Texas voters.  The 2008 and 2012 presidential contests were very close in Harris County, with Barack Obama defeating his 2008 Republican rival, John McCain, 50.45 percent to 48.82 percent, and his 2012 Republican rival, Mitt Romney, 49.39 percent to 49.31 percent.

The Presidential Election: Vote Choice

Approximately two months prior to the November 8 presidential election, the survey finds Hillary Clinton with a lead over Donald Trump in Harris County, with the size of her lead varying depending on assumptions related to voter participation.


We divided the survey respondents into three groups of decreasing size: all registered voters (Registered Voters), voters who indicated that it is very likely or extremely likely that they will vote this fall (Likely Voters), and voters who indicated that it is extremely likely they will vote this fall (Extremely Likely Voters). 

Among registered voters and likely voters Clinton enjoys similar 10 percent and 9 percent leads respectively over Trump in Harris County. Among likely voters (those who indicated that they are either very or extremely likely to vote), Clinton leads Trump 43 percent to 34 percent, with 9 percent supporting Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and 1 percent backing the Green Party’s Jill Stein.  Altogether, 13 percent of likely voters are unsure how they will vote or did not provide a response.  


Clinton’s lead narrows however to only 4 percent (well within the survey’s margin of error) if we restrict the analysis to only those who indicated that they are extremely likely to cast a ballot this fall. Clinton is preferred by 43 percent of extremely likely voters, Trump by 39 percent, Johnson by 7 percent and Stein by 1 percent, with 11 percent unsure or not providing a response (the numbers sum to more than 100 percent due to rounding).  The results suggest that the outcome of the presidential contest in Harris County — as well as the results of dozens of down-ballot contests — could hinge heavily on the level of voter enthusiasm and turnout among different groups in November. 


Harris County has an increasingly ethnically/racially diverse electorate, and strong differences exist among the county’s principal ethnic/racial groups in regard to their support for Trump and Clinton.

Trump’s support is concentrated among Harris County Anglos, with twice as many Anglo likely and extremely likely voters supporting Trump (53 percent and 56 percent) than Clinton (26 percent and 27 percent).  The positions are sharply reversed among Latino and African American likely and extremely likely voters.  Clinton enjoys 62 percent to 17 percent and 61 percent to 24 percent advantages among Latino likely and extremely likely voters respectively, and 69 percent to 7 percent and 71 percent to 6 percent advantages among African American likely and extremely likely voters.

There is also a considerable gender gap in regard to support for Clinton and Trump.   Clinton has a 52 percent to 28 percent advantage over Trump among female likely voters and a 51 percent to 32 percent advantage among female extremely likely voters. In contrast, Trump possesses a 41 percent to 34 percent advantage over Clinton among male likely voters and a 47 percent to 33 percent advantage among male extremely likely voters.


Presidential Candidate Favorability Ratings

Hillary Clinton is viewed favorably by 49 percent of Harris County registered voters (with 26 percent having a very favorable opinion) and unfavorably by 47 percent (with 39 percent having a very unfavorable opinion), for a net favorability rating of +2 percent.  Clinton possesses her highest net favorability (percent favorable – percent unfavorable) ratings among African Americans (+60 percent), Latinos (+38 percent), and Women (+21 percent), and the lowest ratings among Men (-20 percent) and Anglos (-43 percent).

Donald Trump is viewed favorably by 33 percent of Harris County registered voters (with 15 percent having a very favorable opinion) and unfavorably by 63 percent (with 52 percent having a very unfavorable opinion), for a net favorability rating of -30 percent. Trump has a positive favorability rating only among Anglos (+4 percent), with progressively decreasing net ratings among Men (-15 percent), Women (-42 percent), Latinos (-61 percent), and African Americans (-71 percent).


The Harris County District Attorney and Sheriff Elections: Vote Choice

The survey also queried respondents regarding their vote preference in the key races for Harris County District Attorney and Harris County Sheriff. In both contests, even among the likely and extremely likely voters, there existed a substantial proportion of respondents who were unsure about their preference in these lower visibility contests (compared to the presidential race). 

Among those likely voters who did have a preference, in the District Attorney race 29 percent favored Democratic challenger Kim Ogg over Republican incumbent Devon Anderson with 27 percent support.  In the Sheriff contest, 33 percent of likely voters supported Republican incumbent Ron Hickman while 32 percent backed Democratic challenger Ed Gonzalez.

Just as was the case in the presidential race, the Republican candidates fared better when the population was limited to those most likely to cast a ballot this fall: the extremely likely voters.  Among this population Anderson narrowly bested Ogg, 30 percent to 29 percent, while Hickman increased his lead over Gonzalez, 36 percent to 30 percent.  


Want more information? See Harris County Election 2016 data.

Read the media release.

In the Media

Houston Public Media: Clinton Leads Trump By 10 Points In Harris County, Hobby School Poll Finds

Houston Chronicle: UH Poll: Clinton leads Trump by 10 in Harris County

KPRC: Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in Harris County poll

Houston Chronicle: Why Hillary Clinton likes a new voter poll showing her up by 10 in Houston

New York Times: From Voting Rights to Voting Wrongs

Houston Chronicle: Gonzalez, Hickman differ over reforms needed at HCSO

TX Elects: UH Poll: Clinton by 9 in Harris Co.