TYLER, Texas (KXAN) — In the three major statewide races in Texas, Republican incumbents maintain leads over their Democratic challengers, according to a new poll released Monday morning.
The latest survey from the University of Texas at Tyler and The Dallas Morning News shared the preferences of 1,268 registered voters in the state just 50 days before Election Day. The two organizations checked the pulse of these voters during the period at the beginning of September and had a margin of error of 2.8%.
According to the poll, 47% of respondents said they plan to vote for Gov. Greg Abbott, while 38% said they would cast their ballot for Beto O’Rourke. The support for Abbott increased two percentage points from the last poll done by these organizations at the beginning of August.
Mark Owens, an associate professor of political science at UT Tyler who helped lead the poll, said a couple of things seemed to factor into that polling advantage for the governor.
“The timing of our survey was September 6 to September 13, and that was sort of a moment when Greg Abbott was having most of his ads for governor,” Owens said. “In particular you saw the other Republican candidates start to enter the campaign trail. I think that gives that gave each one an edge, which we’re seeing about 2% to 3% above what we polled in August. The other shift of that is which voters are they moving? What we saw throughout these polls was that they’re moving the individuals who are Republicans or Independents that lean Republican. They’re starting to make their decisions and who they’ll support November, more now than they did back in August.”
While this poll placed Abbott with a much more comfortable lead of nine percentage points over O’Rourke, a separate poll released last week by the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Politics Project showed a narrower divide between the two candidates of only five percentage points.
Meanwhile, in the contest for Texas lieutenant governor, incumbent Dan Patrick extended his lead in the UT-Tyler poll by three percentage point from the previous month over Democrat Mike Collier. This time the poll showed 39% of voters plan to support Patrick, while 28% said they’d vote for Collier — a difference of 11 percentage points.
The UT-Tyler and Dallas Morning News poll in August suggested Democrats may have the best chance to unseat Attorney General Ken Paxton. At that time, he held a lead of only two percentage points ahead of Rochelle Garza, the civil rights attorney who’s the Democratic nominee. However, the latest results place the Republican further ahead with a less narrow lead — Paxton 37%, Garza 30%.
“It’s still just about the association of fewer independents undecided in this month,” Owens said, “and Republicans who lag their support for Attorney General Ken Paxton in August are now showing about the same amount of support for him as they do Lt. Gov. Patrick.”
Views on abortion, marijuana legalization, gun purchase age
Pollsters asked Texans for their thoughts on a number of hot-button issues, too, including abortion access, marijuana legalization and possible age restrictions on buying guns like the AR-15.
The poll put this specific question to voters: do you approve or disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to decide abortion policy? The results showed an exactly even split on their attitudes — with 46% voicing approval (30% strongly approve, 16% somewhat approve) and 46% expressing opposition (11% somewhat disapprove, 35% strongly disapprove). The poll, though, showed 8% of respondents said they “don’t know” what their opinion is on that topic.
Following the deadly May shooting at Robb Elementary School, many families and local leaders called on Gov. Abbott to convene a special legislative session to raise the age for people to buy guns like the AR-15, which the shooter in Uvalde used. Pollsters from UT-Tyler and The Dallas Morning News asked if people favor or oppose increasing the age a person can purchase those from 18 years old to 21 years old.
The majority of voters, regardless of their political affiliation, said they backed this idea — 50% favor it a great deal; 14% favor it a moderate amount; 9% favor it a little. When the results are broken down by party, 62% of Democrats, 50% of independents and 40% of Republicans said they expressed the most support (“favor a great deal”) for this proposal.
Legalization of marijuana also received strong support from Texas voters in this latest poll. When asked about medical use of the drug, 67% said they favored it (41% strongly support, 26% support), while 38% opposed it (12% strongly oppose, 9% oppose). Only 11% of the respondents said they felt ambivalent about medical use of marijuana.
The divide over making the recreational use of marijuana legal tilted more toward those who support that prospect (30% strongly support, 21% support) over voters expressing disapproval (22% strongly oppose, 16% oppose).
Pollsters specifically asked voters what they thought of Gov. Abbott’s plan to send migrants by bus from the U.S.-Mexico border to other cities, particularly along the East Coast. Several of those buses dropped off people outside Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence last week.
The latest poll showed 54% support the busing effort for people processed by Customs and Border Patrol, while 29% said they oppose it. Meanwhile, 16% said they don’t know how to feel about it.
“That’s led to him having a majority support on how he’s handling the issues of border security compared to only 30 percent of Texans that identify and support how President Joe Biden is doing,” Owens said. “I think in this case, anytime we talk about border security, we’re really seeing Gov. Abbott rival President Biden on these questions. When the Biden administration has challenged the governor, more this month than last month, there’s actually been a 4% decline in Texans and how they see the federal government on that issue.”
UT Tyler and The Dallas Morning News plan to conduct another poll in October following the Abbott-O’Rourke debate on Sept. 30. KXAN, which help host the debate, would like people to send in questions to ask the candidates.
Check out the full breakdown of findings from the latest UT-Tyler and The Dallas Morning News poll here.