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23 percent of Texans think Obama a Muslim, poll shows

AUSTIN -- Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Texas Sen. John Cornyn both have comfortable pre-election leads in a new statewide poll, suggesting that Texas remains a pocket of Republican strength as Democrats make gains across other sections of the country.

McCain leads Democratic nominee Barack Obama by 51 percent to 40 percent among registered voters in Texas, a contrast to polls showing Obama leading nationwide and challenging McCain in key swing states that have traditionally gone Republican. Eight percent remain undecided.

The survey also showed that a sizeable number of Texans have a mistaken perception of Obama's religious preference. When asked to identify Obama’s religion, 45 percent accurately identified him as Protestant but 23 percent erroneously said he is a Muslim.

The poll, conducted by the Texas Politics Project and Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin, also shows Cornyn, a first-term Republican, leading Democratic challenger Rick Noriega by 45 percent to 36 percent, with 14 percent still undecided just days before Tuesday's general election.

In one striking finding, the survey also shows that President George W. Bush, a former Texas governor, has a low approval rating among voters in his home-state as he approaches the end of his eight years in the White House. Bush's job performance as president is rated in the mid-30s among Texans, generally mirroring the low approval ratings that also plague Bush in nationwide surveys.

The survey also measured the job performance for Republican Gov. Rick Perry, with 38 approving the way he handles his duties as governor, 33 disapproving, and 29 percent not expressing a preference.

Asked which of the two vice-presidential candidates they would prefer as president, Texans chose McCain running mate Sarah Palin over Democrat Joe Biden by 50.5 percent to 42.5 percent, with 7 percent unsure.

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