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What if it wasn’t Beto?

Beto O’Rourke

Here are the crosstabs to the recent UT/Trib poll of Texas that gave Greg Abbott a 46-37 lead over Beto O’Rourke. If you scroll down to page 66, you will find question 21B: “If the 2022 election for Governor were held today, and the candidates were [RANDOMIZE ORDER “Greg Abbott”, “a Democrat other than Beto O’Rourke”] Greg Abbott and a Democrat other than Beto O’Rourke, who would you vote for, or haven’t you thought enough about it to have an opinion?” Which followed Question 21A, in which the choices were explicitly Abbott versus Beto. How did not-Beto do versus Abbott?

Q21A – Abbott 46, Beto 37, Someone Else 7, “Haven’t thought about it enough” 10
Q21B – Abbott 42, NotBeto 37, Someone Else 7, “Haven’t thought about it enough” 13

So Beto and NotBeto both get 37%, while Abbott gets a few points less against NotBeto than he did against Beto.

What makes that interesting is the way in which the Abbott numbers change depending on whether his opponent was Beto or NotBeto:


Subgroup   Abbott    Beto   Else  Unsure
========================================
Dems            4      83      3      10
GOP            84       3      9       5
Indies         38      23     16      24

Subgroup   Abbott NotBeto   Else  Unsure
========================================
Dems            2       85     2      11
GOP            80        3     8       9
Indies         28       19    19      34

Overall, Ds and Rs have the same level of support for their guy in Abbott-v-Beto, and Dems are pretty close to the same for Abbott-v-NotBeto. Republicans are a little softer on Abbott when matched with NotBeto, though all of the support lost goes to the “Haven’t thought about it enough” group, not to NotBeto.

Most of the Dems who don’t pick one of the headliners say they haven’t thought about it enough to decide. I’d bet that most of these people would vote for the Dem (which now will be Beto; remember that this poll was done before his formal announcement), at least if they do vote, which to be sure is a big question to settle. It’s the significant Republican choice of “Someone else” that intrigues me, as those people may very well not vote for Abbott next November if they vote. Perhaps this is just a reflection of the fact that Abbott is in a contested primary, and there’s always a sore-loser factor in these polls when that is the case. But maybe this suggests the possibility that just as there were anti-Trump Republicans last fall, there may be some anti-Abbott Rs next year, as there were anti-Ted Cruz and Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton and Sid Miller Republicans in 2018.

All of that is an optimistic reading, I freely admit. But in this interpretation, Beto clearly has room to grow, while Abbott may be closer to his ceiling. Obviously, all this can change – we are a long way out from next November, and the national environment, currently Not Good for Democrats, can change in either direction – and it is always a fool’s errand to extrapolate from a single poll. But the one thing you can do is look for changes over time, and we know there will be more UT-Trib polls as we go. So here’s my marker on this little nugget, which we will check in on as we get more polls. It may well be nothing, but if it’s not we should be able to see some evidence for it.

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