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Governor Greg Abbott has a comfortable lead over potential Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, according to a new poll from the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Tribune.
The survey of registered voters found that Abbott had a 9 percentage point advantage over O’Rourke, from 46% to 37%. Seven percent of respondents chose someone else in the hypothetical match, and 10 percent said they hadn’t thought about it enough to have an opinion.
O’Rourke is expected to increasingly challenge the Republican governor for a third term next year, although he has yet to make an announcement.
Both men have vulnerabilities, according to the survey. Abbott’s approval rating has improved slightly since the last poll in August, but he remains underwater, with 43% of voters approving the job he does and 48% disapproving.
O’Rourke, meanwhile, has a well-defined – and negative – image with voters. Only 35% of those polled said they had a favorable opinion of him, while 50% registered a negative opinion. Only 7% of voters said they did not know him or had no opinion about him.
While O’Rourke is widely liked by Democrats and widely hated by Republicans, his low preference for independents hurts his overall performance: only 22% of them have a positive opinion of him, while 48% have an opinion. negative.
Abbott’s figures with independents are nothing to brag about either. Twenty-seven percent of them approve of his job performance, while 57% disapprove.
O’Rourke’s initial 9-point deficit “is just as good a starting point Democrats are going to get,” said James Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin .
One advantage for O’Rourke is that with his widespread identity name, he “doesn’t have to spend most of his campaign running for the electorate,” said Joshua Blank, research director for the. Texas Politics Project at UT. But Daron Shaw, UT-Austin government professor and poll co-director, noted that any candidate with such a lopsided favor rating as O’Rourke’s is not in “great shape.”
Another potential gubernatorial candidate who has caught the attention of politicians is actor Matthew McConaughey. He teased a possible race for months, without saying which primary he would run in – or if he would run as an independent.
The poll found that the movie star is not universally loved by Texans. Almost a third of voters – 29% – have neither a favorable nor a negative opinion of McConaughey. Thirty-five percent expressed a favorable opinion of it and 24% said they had an unfavorable impression.
Any Democratic candidate will face a party chairman Joe Biden, deeply unpopular in Texas. In the poll, voters gave him a net approval rating of 20 points, with 35% approving his work and 55% disapproving. That’s wider than the 11-point deficit the survey found between Biden’s two notes in August.
The survey also found that top state officials easily run their Republican primaries, with sizable shares of voters not yet logged in. Attorney General Ken Paxton made up the most serious list of challengers, including Land Commissioner George P. Bush, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Fort Worth State Representative Matt Krause. Paxton won the support of 48% of primary voters in the poll, with Bush far behind at 16% and no one else in double digits. But more than a quarter of those polled said they did not think enough about the primary to form an opinion.
Bush is by far Paxton’s best-known challenger. Only 15% of Republicans said they did not know him, and among Republicans who had an opinion of him, 34% had a favorable opinion and 28% had an unfavorable opinion.
Another high-profile primary was the governor’s race. Abbott is at 56%, with Allen West, the former president of the Texas GOP and US representative from Florida, in second place at 13%. No other challenger is in double digits, and 16% of primary voters said they didn’t think enough about it to form an opinion.
West is Abbott’s best-known challenger by far – and highly regarded by Republicans, with 53% rating him favorably and just 7% rating him unfavorably.
The results were less noticeable in the statewide Democratic primaries. The poll showed O’Rourke dominated his primaries and the majority of voters were not yet paying attention to the attorney general and lieutenant governor primaries.
For example, the two Democrats running for lieutenant governor, Mike Collier and Matthew Dowd, got 17% and 13% support, respectively. Two-thirds of voters said they had not given enough thought to this primary to form an opinion on which Democrat is set to face Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Like Abbott, Patrick’s approval rating has improved a bit since the August survey, although it’s still upside down. In the latest poll, 35% of voters approved of the work he does, while 39% disapproved.
Paxton’s approval numbers, meanwhile, are virtually unchanged from August. Thirty-five percent of voters approve of the job he does, while 37% disapprove.
Another great Texas Republican, House Speaker Dade Phelan, remains less well known than statewide officials, as is the legislative leader. Almost a third of voters said they did not know how to rate Phelan’s work, while 20% gave positive ratings to his professional performance and 28% disapproved.
More interestingly, the Texas legislature has seen a notable upturn in its endorsement of jobs among voters since August, when it was embroiled in a series of controversial special sessions. In the latest poll, 35% of voters approved of the Legislature’s professional performance, while 40% disapproved – a much smaller deficit than the 20-point gap two months ago.
The survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted online from October 22 to 31. The margin of error was +/- 2.83 points. The sample for the Republican primary had 554 voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.16 points. The Democratic primary sample included 436 voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.69 points.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list of them here.