On the eve of her expected entry Thursday into the 2014 gubernatorial race, state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, lags behind Attorney General Greg Abbott in a head-to-head contest by the usual margin for a Democrat seeking statewide office in Texas, according to a poll released Wednesday.
The survey, conducted Sept. 6-20 for the Texas Lyceum, found Abbott with a 29 to 21 percent advantage over Davis, with half those surveyed not ready to offer an opinion. But, because the poll surveyed registered voters and not just “likely” voters, most of those who don’t have an opinion right now won’t be voting in the midterm election, when typically only about two-fifths of registered Texas turn out to vote.
Pollster Daron Shaw said that extrapolating from the 8-point margin in the sample yields a 58 to 42 percent outcome, or a 16 point margin — much like that by which Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama in Texas, and by which Democrats, who haven’t won statewide office since 1994, routinely lose to Republicans running statewide.
“It looks like a generic Republican vs. Democrat ballot in a statewide race,” said Shaw, a University of Texas professor who oversaw the survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.47 percentage points. The sample of 1,000 Texans included 798 registered voters.
That’s a habit of losing that Davis wants to break with a candidacy set to launch at an announcement event Thursday afternoon at the Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum in Haltom City, where she received her high school diploma.
Right now, according to the poll, Davis has a slight edge with Hispanics and does better with female voters than men, though, overall, women expressed a very slight preference for Abbott that is within the margin of error.
Abbott faces a primary in March, but he is the clear favorite with 22 percent support, while his rivals — Tom Pauken, Miriam Martinez and Larry Kilgore — have hardly any backing. But 69 percent of respondents indicated that they hadn’t yet thought enough about the primary to have an opinion.
The result that most surprised Shaw was that President Obama has a net positive job approval rating from Texans. Despite the fact that 59 percent of respondents said the country was on the “wrong track” – up from 51 percent a year ago – 50 percent of registered voters said they thought Obama is doing a good job as president compared with 47 percent who don’t.
The Lyceum Poll found strong support for Gov. Rick Perry’s performance, with 56 percent of registered voters approving of the job he is doing and 34 percent disapproving.
The Texas Legislature was held in even slightly higher favor than the governor, with a 59 percent approval rating, including the approval of most Republicans, a majority of independents, and half of all Democrats.
The poll elicited a provocative and perhaps unexpected result when it asked whether the respondents believe that voting and election laws in Texas discriminate against minorities.
About a third of respondents — including 52 percent of Democrats — said they did, while 64 percent said they didn’t. Most interesting was that minorities themselves were ambivalent on the question. Fifty-one percent of blacks said they thought the laws discriminate compared with 41 percent who believe they don’t; among Hispanics, 45 percent think the laws are discriminatory, less than the 49 percent believe that they are not.
The Texas Lyceum is a nonprofit, nonpartisan statewide leadership organization focused on identifying the next generation of Texas leaders.