Sep 14, 2022 - Politics

Poll: Gap between Greg Abbott, Beto O'Rourke narrows

Photo illustration of Beto O'Rourke tinted blue and Greg Abbott tinted red separated by a white halftone divider.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images and Shelby Tauber/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke is closing in on Gov. Greg Abbott with less than two months before Texans head to the polls, according to the latest statewide survey from the Texas Politics project at UT Austin.

Yes, but: Texas is still a Republican state.

By the numbers: Abbott still holds a five-point lead over O'Rourke — 45%-40% — but the governor held a six-point lead in the group's June poll.

Why it matters: Even a five-point loss for Democrats would be the closest the party has come to defeating Republicans in the governor's race in nearly 28 years.

  • The survey of 1,200 registered voters, conducted from Aug. 26 to Sept. 6, included 8% who were undecided and 3% who preferred an unspecified "someone else."
  • Plus, Green Party candidate Delilah Barrios and the Libertarian Party's Mark Tippets each earned 2%, per the poll.
  • Of note: The margin of error was plus or minus 2.8%.

What they're saying: The state's abortion ban and Abbott's "seemingly evasive response" to the Uvalde shooting have "provided O'Rourke with a chance to mobilize previously dispirited Democratic voters," said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project and co-director of the poll.

  • "But the governor's sustained provocations on immigration and border security (which predate the busing program), coupled with his effectively unlimited campaign resources, are likely enabling him to mount an effective counter-mobilization of Republican and other conservative voters," Henson told Axios.

Meanwhile: In other closely watched statewide races, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick leads Democratic challenger Mike Collier by seven points and Attorney General Ken Paxton leads Rochelle Garza by a similar margin.

Other poll numbers we're watching:

Partisan agreement over Uvalde

More than three-quarters of voters believe that the delay by police at Robb Elementary School contributed "a lot" to the severity of the mass shooting in Uvalde, which killed 19 children and two teachers — the deadliest school shooting in the state's history.

Yes, but: There's disagreement over whether the weapon used by the shooter contributed to the severity of the mass shooting, said Joshua Blank, research director for the Texas Politics Project.

  • "While nearly three-quarters of Texas Democrats believe that the choice of weapon played a major role in the severity of the shootings, less than a quarter of Republicans said the same — and almost a third said that the choice of weapon had no impact," Blank said.

Of note: Only 22% of Texans say the state's elected officials have done "enough" to prevent mass shootings in the state, while a majority — 57% — say they've done "too little."

Abortion attitudes unchanged

Texans are closely divided over abortion, but most voters believe the procedure should not be entirely banned in the state.

By the numbers: Abortion is now illegal in Texas, even in cases of rape and incest, but only 12% of Texans say abortion should be completely prohibited. The figure is consistent with previous statewide polling.

  • And 49% of Texans say abortion laws should be made "less strict."
  • In cases where "the woman's health is seriously endangered," only 5% said abortion should never be an option.

The big picture: O'Rourke and Texas Democrats hope that voters' disapproval of the state's abortion ban will drive them to the polls, and early data from the Texas Secretary of State shows an uptick in voter registrations since Roe was overturned.

Trump remains divisive

Former president Donald Trump continues to split Texans along party lines, especially over the FBI's recent search warrant to recover classified materials from Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.

  • 47% thought the search warrant was based mostly on evidence of possible crimes while 49% said it was based mostly on politics.

Yes, but: Texans aren't enthusiastic about either President Joe Biden or Trump running for president again in 2024.

  • 59% said Biden should not run for re-election, with only 42% of Democrats saying he should run.
  • 57% of voters said Trump shouldn't run, although most Republicans — 61% — said he should run again.

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