New UT/Texas Politics Project Poll: Abbott leads O'Rourke 45%-40%; 52% support Texas busing migrants to other states
We’ve released results from the August 2022 UT/Texas Politics Project Poll, which found Gov. Greg Abbott leading Beto O'Rourke, 45%-40%, in the gubernatorial race. An extensive overview of the poll results contains links to summary and crosstab files as well as our standard set of hundreds of downloadable graphics of results.
The poll surveyed 1200 self-declared, registered voters using the internet August 28-September 6 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.83%.
The overview of results on our website goes into extensive detail, so be sure to have a look. I've included a few highlights below.
The 2022 election
Governor's race. Governor Greg Abbott leads Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke 45%-40%.
Lt. Governor. In the rematch of the 2018 contest for Lieutenant Governor between two-term incumbent Dan Patrick and Democratic challenger Mike Collier, Patrick holds a 7-point lead, 39%-32%,.
Attorney General. Incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton leads his Democratic challenger, Rochelle Garza, 38%-33%.
Some highlights from the policy results
Busing migrants. 52% support the state’s recently implemented policy of busing international migrants awaiting asylum hearings to other parts of the country. Majority support was grounded mainly on nearly unanimous support among Republicans (80%).
State spending on border security. A plurality of Texans, 34%, and a majority of Republicans, 52%, continue to say that the state spends too little on border security — a view largely unchanged from recent prior polling, despite massive, and continuing, increases in border security spending in the current state budget.
Gun violence. 57% say Texas’s elected officials have done “too little” to prevent mass shootings in Texas.
Gun control laws. 54% of Texans say gun control laws should be made more strict, 23% say they should be left as they are, and 18% say they should be less strict.
Robb Elementary School shooting. 76% of Texans say that the delay by police in confronting the shooter contributed “a lot” to the severity of the mass shooting in Uvalde.
Overturning Roe v. Wade. Texans were split in their response to the Supreme Court’s decision leaving abortion policies to the states, with 44% approving and 44% disapproving.
Texas abortion laws. A plurality of Texans, 49%, say abortion laws in Texas should be made “less strict” — only 12% say abortion should never be permitted.
Same-sex marriage. A slight majority of Texans, 53%, say that same sex marriage should be legal in Texas, while 32% disagree — unchanged from polling conducted by the Texas Politics Project in 2017.
K-12 education quality. Only 6% of Texas voters rate the public education system in Texas as “excellent,” compared to 38% who say it is good, 32% not very good, and 11% who say it is terrible.
We'll continue to work with the new data, and will be posting more as we do so. But the poll provides some much-needed evidence about the forces shaping the election environment, and the context for the final weeks of the election campaign, especially the Abbott-O'Rourke race.
Beyond the top lines of the gubernatorial trial ballot, the poll illuminates an election environment in which the Abbott and O’Rourke match-up is the most competitive race for the office Texas has seen in decades. Yet the results also reveal the political and structural advantages Abbott still holds, and the significant obstacles O’Rourke faces in putting together a coalition of voters capable of overcoming those advantages There continues to be little evidence that either candidate is attracting significant crossover votes, a significant asset for Abbott and Republican candidates given the current composition of the voting electorate in Texas. The candidates' favorability ratings suggest that Independents are enamored with neither candidate, but still lean substantially toward Abbott (should they show up to vote).
Above all, the results illustrate how Gov. Abbott's sustained effort to keep Republican voters focused on border security over the past several months is channeling the most powerful political sentiments in the Texas GOP: Republican voters’ continuing focus on immigration and border security as political issues, fueled by an intense aversion to immigration and perceptions of its negative effects on the state.
The priorities and concerns of Republican voters and their elected officials notwithstanding, border security is not without competition for attention from other issues that have burst into what was expected to be a predictably favorable election environment for Republican candidates. Texas's draconian, post-Dobbs abortion laws, the governor's evasive response to the Uvalde murders, and a shift in the national political environment would seem to provide O'Rourke with a chance to mobilize previously disengaged Democratic voters. The poll finds that Democratic enthusiasm about the election has increased since the last UT/TxPP Poll in June. The results also suggest that O’Rourke’s emphasis on abortion rights in his campaign media and appearance should resonate with the large share of Democrats who, as the poll finds, say that abortion is a very important factor in their vote.
But the governor's sustained provocations on immigration and border security resonate even more intensely and broadly with Texas Republicans’ well-documented, deeply negative attitudes about immigration. As much as critics in Texas and beyond have skewered Abbott's busing of migrants to Democratically-led cities beyond Texas as election-year trolling, his combative promotion of the busing activates Texas Republicans' intense sense of urgency about the border, and the widespread desire among them, persistently evident in polling over the last decade, to limit the number of immigrants of all types who come to Texas. With the high-profile bussing policy, Abbott has added of-the-moment style suited to the dominant political tone of a Republican Party that still responds to Donald Trump’s pugnacious, norm-busting political style. Gov. Abbott has made expressions of hostility toward Democratic leaders in Washington, D.C. and in the other major cities at the end of his bus rides as much a part of the initiative as the actual busing. The style is inseparable from the substance, and the poll provides ample evidence that Republicans are politically stimulated by both. Republicans’ reported enthusiasm remains higher than Democrats’, even amidst their recent bump.
In terms of the gubernatorial campaign, this particular approach seems likely to help mobilize Republican voters and conservative independents as a counter to improvements in O'Rourke's circumstances. Yet as the unexpected persistence of cycles of negative revelations about the handling of the Uvalde shooting and ham fisted political responses, unexpected economic fluctuations, Joe Biden’s shifting political fortunes, Donald Trump’s cascading legal problems, and other developments during 2022 have amply illustrated, the political terrain upon which the election is playing out is particularly unpredictable.
Again, you can find the poll summary document and an extensive look at the results by Josh Blank and me at the Texas Politics Project website, as well as several hundred graphics files for downloading. Also, keep an eye out later today for a new Second Reading podcast, in which Josh Blank, Daron Shaw, and I will be discussing the poll.
As always, thanks for your interest, and stay in touch.
Executive Director, The Texas Politics Project
College of Liberal Arts / Department of Government
The University of Texas at Austin