Gov. Greg Abbott leads by 9 percentage points in gubernatorial hypothetical matchup poll by TT/UT

Marisa Huerta

Early hypothetical polling shows Gov. Greg Abbott is leading by 9 percentage points against Beto O’Rourke for next year’s governor election. 

The Texas Politics Project, in collaboration with The Texas Tribune and UT, surveyed 1,200 registered voters across the state that showed 46% of people said they would vote for Abbott, giving him a strong lead over O’Rourke several months ahead of the election, said Joshua Blank, Texas Politics Project research director. Of those polled, 37% said they would vote for O’Rourke while 7% said they would vote for someone else, and 10% said they hadn’t thought about it enough, according to the poll

Blank said as Texas becomes increasingly competitive, candidates will most likely stick to mobilizing voters within their party as opposed to trying to gain votes from the other side. However, the poll shows vulnerabilities for both candidates with independent voters.

“The reaction of independents looms large over the race, and ultimately, independents have negative attitudes towards both candidates,” Blank said. “How successfully or unsuccessfully each of those candidates both appeals to and defines the other for those independent voters could go a long way towards telling us whether this is going to be a close race.”

While O’Rourke is polling behind Abbott, Democratic candidates have been gaining more votes in the last decade. O’Rourke’s policies differ from Republicans as he advocates for stricter gun control and aims to legalize marijuana. 

“(Abbott) beat Wendy Davis by almost 20 points in 2014, he beat (Lupe) Valdez by almost 14 points in 2018,” Blank said. “Given the trend line for Democrats and even acknowledging that O’Rourke is a high-quality candidate who is going to vigorously challenge Abbott, this result still represents progress for Democrats, even this far out.”

Poll co-director Daron Shaw said Abbott’s failure to adequately address issues from February’s winter storm is a vulnerability that could turn voters away. Despite this, Abbott’s policies, such as stronger border security, have already solidified the Republican vote as 84% of Republicans said they would vote for him according to the poll.

“There’s a sense that (the Legislature) did not address those issues, and so any additional problems with the grid, I think, would be really problematic for the Republicans generally but for Abbott in particular,” government professor Shaw said.

Victoria Moreno, an 87th legislative session intern, said when she worked in the Capitol last year, she did not find the issues Abbott chose to prioritize during the last legislative session helpful to the people Abbott represents.

“I remember being there whenever Greg Abbott lifted the mask mandate in March and thinking, ‘This is not the right time to do that,’ and I remember being very bothered by that,” economics senior Moreno said. “I would really rather see a change of leadership in the state.”

Moreno said she plans on voting for Beto, but does not believe he will win because of the state’s history of individuals voting predominantly Republican.

“I find it difficult or unrealistic to see a changing state leadership, at least in this upcoming election,” Moreno said. “We’ve been a red state for so long, and I think this poll does reflect that.”