Abbott’s Lead Over O’Rourke Narrows While Most Texans Support Bussing of Migrants

With election day nearing and the gubernatorial campaign shifting into high gear, Gov. Greg Abbott’s lead over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke is now 5 percentage points, 45% to 40%, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll.

In the poll of 1,200 registered voters, 8% were undecided and 3% preferred an unspecified “someone else,” while Green Party candidate Delilah Barrios and the Libertarian Party’s Mark Tippetts each earned 2%. The survey was conducted online from Aug. 28 to Sept. 6 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points for the full sample.

“The good news for O’Rourke is that he’s still within striking distance, and Abbott is under 50% in this poll,” said Government Department professor Daron Shaw, who co-directs the poll. “For Abbott, the good news is that O’Rourke hasn’t made inroads with Republicans or independents, and the GOP base seems more enthused.”

In another closely watched statewide race, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick leads Democratic challenger Mike Collier by 7 percentage points, 39% to 32%, in a rematch of their 2018 race. Incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton leads his Democratic challenger, Rochelle Garza, by a similar margin, 38% to 33%.

The share of Democrats who said they were “extremely enthusiastic” about the election increased by 5 percentage points, from 41% to 46%, from the June Texas Politics Project Poll, while Republican enthusiasm was higher (52%) but unchanged from June.

The poll also explored Texans’ views on a variety of policies. Some key findings include:

  • Fifty-two percent support the state’s recently implemented policy of bussing international migrants awaiting asylum hearings out of Texas to other parts of the country.
  • Only 22% of Texans say that Texas’ elected officials have done “enough” to prevent mass shootings in the state. The majority, 57%, say they have done “too little.”
  • A plurality of Texans, 49%, said abortion laws in Texas should be made “less strict.”
  • Texans were evenly divided in their reaction to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, but only 12% of Texans, consistent with past polling, said that abortion should be completely prohibited.
  • Forty-two percent report that their families are economically worse off than they were a year ago, while 17% say they are better off.
  • Texans overall are not enthusiastic about either Joe Biden or Donald Trump running for president again in 2024: 59% said Biden should not run for re-election, and 57% said Trump should not run again.

Immigration and border security continue to exert a powerful presence in Texans’ attitudes going into the November election, particularly Texas Republicans. Immigration and/or border security were cited as the most important issue in 2022 vote decisions by a plurality of voters, 26%, including 49% of Republicans and a plurality of independents, 27%.

“Gov. Abbott’s commitment to bussing migrants to other parts of the country is undeniably popular with the Republican base in Texas even as the policy attracts widespread criticism,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin and a co-director of the poll. “The nature of the policy plays well with the large swath of GOP voters who see border security and reducing illegal immigration to Texas as major election issues.”

As new developments continue to unfold in the aftermath of the May mass shooting in Uvalde, the poll asked, “Have Texas’s elected officials done enough, too much, or too little to prevent mass shootings in Texas?” A majority, 57%, opined that elected officials had done too little, while 22% said they had done “enough”; only 4% said that they have done “too much.”

“Texans diverge significantly in their opinions about the role of the weapon used by the shooter in the severity of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary,” said Joshua Blank, research director of 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.”

Full results from the poll and methodological information, including the questionnaire reporting results, cross tabs and downloadable graphics of results, are available on the Texas Politics Project website.

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