New poll shows tightening race for Texas governor, but Beto has some big problems

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Just a couple of days ago we covered this eyebrow-raising poll showing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott with a whopping 19-point lead over Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke in the race for governor, and I said at the time it may be an outlier. We’ll need another couple of surveys to know whether that’s the case or not, but a new poll from Quinnipiac shows Abbott with a much more modest 5-point advantage over his Democratic challenger; still outside of the margin of error, but a much closer race than what Quinnipiac found in December of last year, when Abbott led O’Rourke by 15 points.

According to Quinnipiac, Texas voters are strongly in favor of several gun control proposals, but O’Rourke’s proposed ban and confiscation of AR-15s and other modern sporting rifles isn’t one of them.

Fifty-one percent of voters think that stricter gun laws would help to decrease the number of mass shootings, while 47 percent think they would not. This is a change from a Quinnipiac poll in June 2021 when only 42 percent of voters said that stricter gun laws would help to decrease the number of mass shootings and 56 percent said they would not.

Voters support 58 – 38 percent stricter gun laws in the United States.

Voters support 93 – 6 percent requiring background checks for all gun buyers.

Voters support 73 – 25 percent raising the minimum legal age to buy any gun to 21 years old nationwide.

Voters are split on a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons. Forty-seven percent support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons, while 49 percent oppose it.

Now, there are some oddities in this poll worth mentioning. Abbott is underwater when it comes to voter approval of his handling of “gun violence” 38-55, but those same voters still give Abbott a 47-43 edge over O’Rourke when it comes to “gun policy,” which to me suggests that while many Texans may not be thrilled with things like the passage of Constitutional Carry, if forced to choose between a candidate who expands the right to carry and one who wants to ban and confiscate the most commonly-sold rifle in the country (and state), they’re gonna go with the pro-2A guy.

Another oddiity is the fact that according to Quinnipiac, the economy is not the top issue on the mind of voters in Texas this year.

Asked to choose the most urgent issue facing Texas today, the Texas-Mexico border tops the list (29 percent) followed by the economy (19 percent) and gun policy (17 percent).

Among Republicans, 56 percent say the Texas-Mexico border followed by the economy (24 percent).

Among Democrats, 34 percent say gun policy followed by abortion (13 percent).

Among independents, 25 percent say the Texas-Mexico border followed by the economy (21 percent), gun policy (18 percent), and abortion (10 percent).

Most national polls show the economy is by far the most important issue on the minds of voters, but border security is by far the major concern of Republicans, and even the top issue for independent voters. It’s also telling that the economy isn’t a primary concern for Texas Democrats, nor is the border for that matter. And the good news for Abbott is that on both border security and the economy, Texas voters give him the nod over O’Rourke.

  • the situation at the Mexican border: 53 percent say Abbott, while 38 percent say O’Rourke;
  • the economy: 52 percent say Abbott, while 38 percent say O’Rourke;
  • the response to the coronavirus: 51 percent say Abbott, while 40 percent say O’Rourke;
  • election laws: 49 percent say Abbott, while 42 percent say O’Rourke;
  • gun policy: 47 percent say Abbott, while 43 percent say O’Rourke;
  • abortion: 44 percent say O’Rourke, while 42 percent say Abbott.

Even though the topline of this poll shows a fairly close race, this may be the high water mark for O’Rourke’s campaign. A majority of voters surveyed don’t trust him on most of the key issues on their mind, and even with emotions rightfully running high after the brutal slayings of 19 fourth graders and two teachers in Uvalde, O’Rourke’s campaign stunts capitalizing on the tragedy and his renewed call for a ban on modern sporting rifles have failed to sway a majority of respondents that he and his anti-gun agenda are the best fit for Texas going forward, and unless there are some unforced errors on the part of Abbott’s campaign between now and November, it’s hard to see these basic dynamics changing much.