AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nexstar Media Group gathered about two dozen voters who were undecided going into the debate between Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez to watch both candidates take the stage together. This focus group was a mix of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, ranging from 18-55 years old.

Voters held their dials in their hand and turned it as they watched the debate: zero stood for the most unfavorable response, with 100 being the most favorable response. Each dial registered voters’ reactions to the candidates’ answers throughout the debate. 

Some voters said Friday’s debate helped them understand where each candidate stands on key issues, like school security, property taxes and medical marijuana. 

“Especially with having two young children, education is very important,” focus group participant David Hopper said. Hopper is a registered Independent, but said after hearing both candidates share parts of their school safety plans, he plans on voting for Valdez because he supports “safety of our children and not arming our teachers.”

“They have enough going on,” he said.

Border issues and medical marijuana also gained high responses.

“I’ve never understood the thought process that if somebody is suffering and in pain that you would restrict their quality of life,” Erwin Michael said.

Michael said based on both candidates’ responses, he believes “Lupe Valdez was more prone to medical marijuana and Greg Abbott was still holding back on it.”

He plans on voting for Abbott after the debate.

“I do believe he’s the overall choice,” he said. “I don’t believe Lupe Valdez has a full understanding of what it takes to protect not only a state but a country. I do want people from all countries to have an opportunity, but you have to regulate that opportunity.”

Here are the results breaking down post-debate responses from the focus group:

Texas Gubernatorial Debate Focus Group – 21 Total Participants

1. In your opinion, who won the debate with the strongest performance?

  • Greg Abbott: 11
  • Lupe Valdez: 8
  • Undecided: 2

2. After watching the debate, if the election were today, who would you vote for?

  • Greg Abbott: 10
  • Lupe Valdez: 9
  • Undecided: 2

3. After watching the debate, what is your opinion of Gov. Greg Abbott?

  • Favorable: 11
  • Neutral: 2
  • Unfavorable: 8

4. After watching the debate, what is your opinion of Lupe Valdez?

  • Favorable: 11
  • Neutral: 4
  • Unfavorable: 6

5. After watching Gov. Abbott’s stance on issues, what is your opinion of the Texas Republican Party?

  • Favorable: 8
  • Neutral: 2
  • Unfavorable: 11

6. After watching Lupe Valdez’s stance on issues, what is your opinion of the Texas Democratic Party?

  • Favorable: 12
  • Neutral: 2
  • Unfavorable: 7

Focus group by the numbers

Seventy-five percent of focus group members who identified as making more than $100,000 a year thought Abbott won the debate. Forty-three percent of people who made between $50,000-100,000 a year thought Abbott won, the same percentage as those in that group who thought Valdez won.

Fourteen percent of people in that income group thought neither candidate one.

Of people who made less than $50,000 a year, 67 percent thought Abbott won and 33 percent thought Valdez one.

Forty-three percent of women in the focus group thought Abbott won the debate, compared to 71 percent of men. Forty-three percent of women thought Valdez won the debate, compared to 29 percent of men.

Fourteen percent of women in the group thought neither won the debate.

In terms of the generation of voters in the focus group, 60 percent of millennials thought Abbott won the debate, versus 27 percent of Gen X members who did and 67 percent of Baby Boomers.

Forty percent of millennials, 43 percent of Gen Xers and 33 percen of Baby Boomers in the group thought Valdez won. Twenty-seven percent of Gen X members in the group thought neither one.