DALLAS— (TNS) Republican Gov. Greg Abbott maintains a modest lead over Democrat Beto O’Rourke in the simmering race for Texas governor, though his road to victory could be bumpy.
According to a new poll from the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler, Abbott has a 7-point cushion over O’Rourke, unchanged from a similar survey in May.
The poll, conducted Aug. 1-7, surveyed 1,384 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.
Leading the way for the governor is his handling of the Texas economy, with 53% favoring his handling and 41% disapproving. Only 9% blamed Abbott or Texas lawmakers for inflation, while 48% blamed rising costs for goods and services on President Joe Biden.
“Regardless of the many things that are going on, Abbott’s position and confidence in the economy is what keeps this lead going,” said Mark Owens, political scientist at UT-Tyler and director of the poll.
But all is not well for Abbott, particularly on gun control, with 66% of voters saying the two-time incumbent should call a special session on tackling mass shootings.
Could the gun problem be Abbott’s albatross?
The poll found 63% don’t think elected officials are doing enough to stop the mass shootings, which made headlines after the May 24 massacre of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Chicago. Uvalde. About the same number of Texans are concerned about gun violence in their community.
“Not only are they worried about a mass shooting happening in their community, but a lot of people feel the Legislative Assembly and elected officials aren’t doing enough,” Owens said.
A majority of voters — 56% to 43% — also say Texas is heading in the wrong direction under Abbott’s leadership.
“It’s not a hard choice,” said Deborah Crowe, a 62-year-old corporate proofreader from Arlington and survey participant.
She said she was disappointed with Abbott’s inaction on gun control and strengthening the power grid, and although the governor didn’t indicate he was interested in a run for the House Blanche in 2024, Crowe believes he has aspirations for higher office.
“I was not happy with what Governor Abbott did,” she said. “He seems to be spending a lot of time preparing to run for president.”
Still, O’Rourke might struggle to turn the Texans’ displeasure into votes. They are split on whether they see it in favor or not, at 43%. On the other hand, voters slightly disapprove (49-47) of Abbott’s professional performance.
Nathan Lusk, a 45-year-old man who owns a printing company and participated in the poll, said he was voting for Libertarian candidate Mark Tippetts for governor. He said it’s important for the next governor to stop the federal government’s excesses.
Other November mid-term races
Elsewhere on the ballot, the poll found that November’s race for Texas attorney general is the most competitive competition statewide. Democratic challenger Rochelle Garza trailed incumbent Republican Ken Paxton 34% to 32%, making the race a stalemate.
Garza, a former ACLU lawyer, could benefit from Paxton’s legal woes, including a 2015 securities fraud indictment and an FBI investigation into allegations of bribery and public corruption. Paxton denied any wrongdoing.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has a 36% to 28% lead over Democrat Mike Collier, a rematch from their 2018 contest.
Patrick, who in his role as president of the Texas Senate pushed for conservative legislation, has a mixed approval rating, with 41% approving of his performance and 39% disapproving. Twenty percent of respondents neither approve nor disapprove of Patrick.
Abbott-O’Rourke race expected to be tight
Abbott, who is seeking his third term, scored two blowout gubernatorial victories in 2014 over former state senator Wendy Davis and in 2018 over former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez.
But his showdown with O’Rourke is expected to be one of the most watched races in the country. Analysts predict the candidates could spend a total of $200 million. Both have formidable political organizations, a rarity for Texas statewide candidates.
According to the poll, 29% think the race will be very close and Abbott will win, compared to 20% who say O’Rourke will win a close contest. While 20% thought Abbott would win easily, only 4% thought O’Rourke would win easily.
Republican consultant Matthew Langston said Abbott would win with support from conservative voters who have dominated Texas politics for 30 years. If 56% of Texans say the state is heading in the wrong direction, that’s a Biden problem, he added.
“We’re looking at the national frustration there,” Langston said. “It would be a bad correlation to say that the direction of the state question is an indicator that Greg Abbott is going to lose.”
State leadership is one reason to support Abbott, said Zoe Christiansen of Dallas, a 29-year-old woman who works in the supply chain industry and participated in the survey.
“It’s a booming economy and more people are moving here than leaving here,” she said. “I really don’t like Beto.”
But Royce Brooks, the former executive director of Annie’s List, a group that promotes candidacies from progressive women, said the majority of Texans who believe the state is on the wrong track is O’Rourke’s opportunity.
“It’s absolutely amazing that the poll shows Texas is on the wrong track,” she said. “In Texas, that never happens. The world may be in disarray, but Texas is still perfect. That’s how Texans like to feel about it.
Owens said those voters may be discouraged by the lack of action on gun control and other issues, as well as the rash of red meat legislation the Legislature approved in 2021. , such as the state ban on abortion.
More than half of survey respondents said abortion should be legal in most cases, and 82% said it should be allowed when a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest , which Texas law does not allow.
The decision to overturn Roe v. Wade also creates an opening for O’Rourke, Brooks said.
She suggested he team up with Garza, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, to motivate voters.
“She not only has exactly the political and legal context for this moment, where abortion rights are under attack, but she is also a young Latina from the valley and is able to connect with a community of voters who are so often taken for granted,” Brooks said. “Having him in this process could potentially give him tails of the pack.”
There was also overwhelming support — 54% to 33% — for expanding Medicaid to improve access to health care, which the state has failed to do.
Still, Abbott won most of the voter confidence poll questions. Respondents gave him preference over O’Rourke when it comes to reducing crime (43% to 30%), securing the border (45% to 26%), improving the economy (42% at 32%) and even to manage power. grid (35% to 33%).
The latter is a disappointment for O’Rourke and the Democrats who have made fixing the power grid a campaign issue, although half of poll respondents said they did not trust the grid to avoid the breakdowns, while 46% had some level of confidence in this.
O’Rourke beat Abbott in one category: 37% thought he would do a better job of bringing people together, compared to 32% for Abbott.
Langston said that could be a weak spot for the governor.
“The trap right now is voter discontent,” he said. “They have to keep people energized because Beto O’Rourke is a very good retail politician.”
But how could O’Rourke win, when even some of his supporters don’t believe him?
“Her voters of opportunity are young voters, voters of color, women who have been horrified by attacks on abortion access and reproductive rights,” Brooks said. “There is a way to get disillusioned voters to believe in the possibility of change and to believe in it enough to act.”
She added that O’Rourke could gain traction in the gun control debate, saying he “has established himself as a ‘moral authority on this issue.’
Owens said it could be difficult for O’Rourke to capitalize on any issues that could hurt Abbott.
“Texans who don’t vote are actually from all demographics, which makes it harder for him to speak to a population and quickly get the outcome he wants,” he said.
The Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler poll is a statewide random sample of 1,384 registered voters conducted Aug. 1-7. The mixed-mode sample includes 412 registered voters interviewed by telephone by the University of Texas at Tyler with support from ReconMR, and 400 registered voters randomly selected from Dynata’s online respondent panel. The margin of error for a sample of 972 registered voters in Texas is +/- 2.6 percentage points, and the most conservative margin of sampling error that includes design effects from this poll is + +/- 2.8 percentage points for a 95% confidence interval.
The online and telephone surveys were conducted in English and Spanish. Using information from the 2020 Current Population Survey and the Office of the Texas Secretary of State. The sample’s gender, age, race/ethnicity, education, metropolitan density, and vote choice were matched to the population of registered voters in Texas.
Visit the Center for Opinion Research for more information on current and previous studies.
(By Gromer Jeffers Jr., The Dallas Morning News)
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