A new poll shows Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O'Rourke cruising through their primary contests and facing off in the general election in November.
In a hypothetical Abbott-O'Rourke matchup, a University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll released Monday found Abbott leading O'Rourke by 10 percentage points among verified primary voters, with people who identify as independent favoring Abbott over O'Rourke nearly 2-to-1.
Abbott is seeking a third term, touting conservative victories from the past four years, including efforts to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. O'Rourke, who challenged U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2018 and then ran a short-lived campaign for president, has criticized Abbott for promoting extremist policies that he says do not reflect the values of the people of Texas.
Poll shows Abbott, O'Rourke clear favorites in March primaries
A late 2021 poll from the Texas Politics Project showed Abbott with the highest disapproval numbers of his tenure as governor, energizing his Republican challengers. But Monday's poll shows Abbott as the clear favorite among likely Republican voters, with 60% supporting him; 15% supporting Allen West, former chairman of the Texas Republican Party; 15% backing former state Sen. Don Huffines; and 5% or less favoring each of the three other candidates.
The same poll found Abbott's job approval rating up for the first time in a year, with 44% of voters approving of his performance and 42% disapproving.
The vast majority of likely Democratic voters backed O'Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso, in the Democratic primary, with 93% supporting his candidacy over Joy Diaz, Inocencio "Inno" Barrientez, Michael Cooper and Rich Wakeland, who each received 2% support or less.
The survey also asked respondents to weigh in on other statewide primaries, including the Republican contest for Texas attorney general. Incumbent Ken Paxton is facing three high-profile challengers who have repeatedly criticized him on ethics, as Paxton is under indictment on felony charges for securities fraud and failing to register with state securities officials and under investigation by the FBI for separate allegations of misconduct in office.
Monday's poll shows Paxton in danger of a runoff election, as 47% of likely Republican primary voters said they would support his campaign. Of his three challengers, 21% backed Land Commissioner George P. Bush, 16% backed Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and 15% backed U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler.
On the Democratic side, 52% initially said they did not know whom they planned to support in the primary for attorney general. When pressed by pollsters to make a selection, 41% said they would support Rochelle Garza, 25% backed Joe Jaworski, 15% chose Lee Merritt, 11% picked Mike Fields and 6% selected S "T-Bone" Raynor.
Early voting began Monday and will run through Feb. 25. Election day is March 1.
Texans conflicted on public ed, power grid
The poll surveyed 1,200 self-declared registered voters in Texas between Jan. 28 and Feb. 7, and it posed questions about competitive statewide races and different issues facing Texas, including legislative priorities championed by state leaders last session. The margin of error for the full sample is 2.83 percentage points.
Texans appear closely divided on two public education issues surfacing as priorities for the Republican Party: how big of a role parents should play in deciding curriculum in schools and efforts to remove certain books that address race or sex from classrooms and public school libraries.
"Results suggest that these issues resonate most in the quarters of the likely Republican primary electorate, though the larger universe of Republican partisans is divided, particularly on the issue of removing books from school libraries," Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, and Joshua Blank, the group's research director, wrote in a blog post about the poll.
Without considering party, 29% of respondents said they supported “recent efforts by some Texas elected officials, parents, and parent groups to remove books from public school libraries," and 62% said they opposed those efforts. Looking at Republicans, 41% said they favored those efforts, and 44% opposed them. But when voters who self-identify as "extremely conservative" answered, 50% backed efforts to remove certain books, and 37% said they opposed those efforts.
The poll also considered how Texans feel about the state's power grid, one year after extreme weather saw a nearly catastrophic failure of the grid. Democrats, including O'Rourke, have campaigned hard on the issue.
A majority of respondents said they continue to lack confidence in actions taken by state leaders to secure the grid after the storm, with just 6% of Republicans and 5% of Democrats saying they are extremely confident lawmakers took appropriate actions to secure the grid.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Texas governor election 2022: In poll, Greg Abbott leads Beto O'Rourke