Poll: Gun control not helping O'Rourke in Texas governor's race

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has led in every head-to-head poll pitting him against Democratic gubernatorial nominee Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke this election cycle, and the streak continues with the release of a new survey of 1,200 registered voters in the Lone Star State. The new poll from the Texas Politics Project shows Abbott leading O’Rourke 45-40, and the Democrat’s push for new gun control laws in the wake of the shootings at Robb Elementary in Uvalde doesn’t appear to be swaying many voters to his side.

According to the survey, “gun violence” is a top issue for 11% of survey respondents, far behind immigration and border security, which was the top concern of about 1-in-4 voters. Respondents were split when it comes to who they trust more on “gun violence”, with both Abbott and O’Rourke drawing support from 42% of those surveyed. Abbott, on the other hand, is the clear favorite on immigration and border security, getting 48% support from voters compared to just 36% for O’Rourke.

When it comes to guns, while 57% of respondents say that the state hasn’t done enough to prevent mass shootings, it would appear that it’s mostly Democrats who believe that the focus after Uvalde should be on the gun and not the individual responsible for the crime… or the delayed response by law enforcement on the scene.  76% of those polled say that that delay contributed to the severity of the attack, while 46% say the fact that a semi-automatic rifle was used was a factor. When the pollsters drilled down past the topline numbers, however, the partisan split was hard to miss.

As much as O’Rourke has tried to woo voters with his pitch for “common sense” gun control, including a ban on the future sale of AR-15s (while edging away from his previous “Hell yes we’re coming for your AR-15s” stance that he took during his failed presidential campaign in 2020), it doesn’t look like it’s having any noticeable impact in terms of bringing independents to his side. While neither candidate is particular popular with independents, O’Rourke’s in a hole he’s not likely to climb out of between now and November.

Independents as a group are more favorably disposed toward Abbott than O’Rourke, though both are in net-negative territory, with intensity, such as it exists, expressed on the unfavorable end of the spectrum: Abbott is judged favorably by 37% of independents and unfavorably by 42% (27% very unfavorable). O’Rourke fares worse – 23% favorable, 63% unfavorable (47% very unfavorable). If one possible route to reducing Abbott’s baseline partisan advantage is to add a substantial share of independents voters to his Democratic base, O’Rourke faces significant obstacles as summer turns to fall.

That’s putting it mildly. While Democrats have been pointing to new voter registrations in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down Roe v. Wade, the truth is that for any Democrat to win statewide office they’re going to have to draw a significant number of independents to do so. In the gubernatorial primaries held earlier this year, for example, there were about 1,050,000 votes cast by Democrats. Republicans, on the other hand, had more than 1,850,000 primary voters. In fact, Greg Abbott received more votes in the Republican primary than all of the Democratic candidates combined.

That being said, there are a few concerns for Second Amendment supporters in the poll. While Abbott enjoys a five-point lead over O’Rourke, he didn’t crack 50%, and if undecideds were to break heavily Democratic the race could be much closer than this survey would indicate. A majority of survey respondents also said that they believe Texas is moving in the wrong direction, which would generally be good news for the party out of power. Given that the biggest concern for voters is immigration and border security, however, it’s likely that a good chunk of those folks dissatisfied with the status quo blame Democrats in Washington, D.C. and not Texas Republicans for the crisis along the state’s southern border.

It’s a good but not great poll for Greg Abbott, and one that shouldn’t lead Texas gun owners to become complacent between now and Election Day. “Beto” O’Rourke may be down in the polls but he’s not out of the running, and Second Amendment supporters need to stay engaged and involved in turning out the vote in November to ensure that the Democrat and his gun-banning ideology suffer the defeat they deserve when Texans cast their ballots in just a few months.