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Politics

A new poll shows Abbott besting O’Rourke. What should we make of the numbers?

Beto O'Rourke is seen in profile on the left; Greg Abbott is on the right, looking left.
Michael Minasi/KUT, Emree Weaver/KUT
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Beto O'Rourke and Greg Abbott.

A new Quinnipiac poll indicates current Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is ahead of Beto O’Rourke in the 2022 race for governor by double digits. Right now, O’Rourke seems to be the main Democratic challenger to Abbott.

Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace tells Texas Standard that it’s very early in the race for governor but that right now the numbers for O’Rourke also seem to reflect low approval for President Biden in Texas.

Hear more in the audio player or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.

Texas Standard: How much does Gov. Abbott appear to be pulling ahead of Beto O’Rourke in this poll?

Jeremy Wallace: Well, it’s definitely early in the election season, of course, we haven’t seen a lot of campaigning. But, what we have right now, is 52% for Greg Abbott to 37% for Beto O’Rourke. So that’s a good, sizable 15 point lead at the start of this race, which is certainly better for Abbott when you compare it to what Ted Cruz was doing against Beto O’Rourke at the same point in the 2018 U.S. Senate race. Ted Cruz was only up about 10 points. So Abbott looks like he’s in a good spot starting off. But, again, it’s a really long way to go.

What about recent polls showing Abbott’s approval numbers were rather low? Is this more about Abbott’s popularity growing or is it more about his challenger and perhaps a lack of popularity or some negatives there?

Well, a little bit of both. So the Quinnipiac poll did show that Greg Abbott’s approval numbers for his job rating have gotten better. So more Texans approve of how he’s doing his job now than back in the summer when they last polled the state of Texas. So he’s up from 49% to 53%. But, at the same time, like you pointed out, Beto O’Rourke’s unfavorables are much higher than they were back in 2018. Their poll shows that well over 40% – I think it’s 47% exactly – disapprove or have a negative opinion of Beto O’Rourke. That is light years different from 2018, the start of that race. Back then, he was under 20% of people disapproved of or had unfavorable views of him. And it’s hard to tell what that’s from, you know, is that from, you know, his presidential run and the early campaigning against him or not?

There’s some skepticism of polling. How much trust should we put in these Quinnipiac numbers?

There’s always a healthy dose of skepticism for public polling because you never know exactly, like you mentioned earlier, it’s a snapshot in time. In this case, Quinnipiac is relatively new to polling Texas. The 2018 governor’s race and the U.S. Senate race was the first time we saw them in the state of Texas. They’ve been doing polling around other states for much longer. They were in Florida for a decade before that, you know, they were in places like the Midwest, Iowa, New Hampshire, up in the New England area. So they certainly have had a lot of national experience and relatively newcomers to Texas. And in 2018, when all the pollsters seemed to have Texas wrong, they did OK. Early on they had the race closer in the U.S. Senate race. But down the stretch, they had problems, too. You know, they had Ted Cruz winning by nine percentage points in Texas when, ultimately, he won by less than 3%. So certainly, there are some reasons to be skeptical of Quinnipiac, but they do have a reputation, have done a lot of polling in other big states. So take that for what it’s worth.

How much do you see this as tied to President Biden’s own numbers? Did the survey go there? I mean, a lot of people are saying this is not going to be a good year for Democrats based on Biden’s polling in recent weeks.

Yeah, absolutely. This poll shows that Joe Biden is absolutely an anchor for Democrats right now. His approval ratings were incredibly low. They’re like – 32% of Texans approved of the job that Joe Biden is doing. That is tragically low for the Democrats heading into a midterm year. Not entirely surprising, though. We know one constant in politics is that midterm elections are bad for the president’s party that’s in power. So he certainly heads into this in the environment that we would expect a lot of blowback to President Biden and this poll shows it right now.

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