Immigration gives Greg Abbott edge over Beto O’Rourke in Texas: poll

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Busing migrants to cities across America is politically aiding Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s re-election campaign, according to a new poll.

The survey conducted by Spectrum News and Siena College released Wednesday shows Abbott with a seven-point lead, 50% to 43%, over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. Abbott, seeking his third term, has made headlines for sending migrants to cities including Chicago, New York and Washington, DC, as part of his “Operation Lone Star” program launched in March 2021.

Between April and mid-August this year, it sent more than 6,600 asylum seekers on bus journeys lasting more than 30 hours, often without food, water, medical supplies or resting places.

On September 15, Abbott bussed 75 to 100 migrants to the home of Vice President Kamala Harris in DC

Abbott has 95% support from Republicans and O’Rourke has 93% support from Democrats. White voters favor Abbott, 64% to 31%. Black and Latino voters favor O’Rourke, 79% to 10% and 58% to 36%, respectively.

About 31% of respondents cited immigration as their main concern, and 22% said the same about abortion.

The poll of 651 likely voters was conducted September 14-18, with a margin of error of +/-4.4%.

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke, left, trails Texas Governor Greg Abbott by seven points in a new poll taken less than two months before the election.
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Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute, said Newsweek Friday that self-identified independents — who make up about a third of Texas’ voter base — are the “swing voters” who will decide the election.

While the poll shows Democrats are very engaged due to the reversal of Roe vs. Wade and what they see as an attack on reproductive freedom, independents see things differently.

“When it comes to immigration, not only [voters] let’s say it’s the No. 2 problem in Texas behind the economy, it’s the second biggest problem among freelancers,” Levy said.

Likely voters were asked about Operation Lone Star and the use of the Texas National Guard and state troopers to catch/detain illegal migrants. Independents said they supported such policies, 58% to 35%. GOP support is about 93%.

Asked specifically about support for busing migrants, voters in Texas support it overall, from 52% to 40%. More independents also support it than reject it, from 47% to 44%.

“At this point in the race, it just seems fair enough that immigration trumps concern, opposition, over abortion,” Levy said. “And as a result, the top three starters hold leads between five and nine points.”

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton also lead their respective Democratic opponents, Mike Collier and Rochelle Garza, by 9% and 5%.

A bigger issue for O’Rourke to overcome this deficit may be how voters perceive him, Levy said.

“I was a bit surprised that O’Rourke’s favour/unfavorable ratio was underwater,” he said, alluding to how 59% of those polled find him “unfavourable”.

While independents mostly share O’Rourke’s stance on abortion, the same likely voters don’t tend to believe Democrats are better off economically — which remains the No. 1 issue.” at all levels” in the polls that Levy and his colleagues did in swing indicates this election cycle.

In Texas, about 64% of respondents said they cut back on everyday items, according to a survey.

“In any state that is a contested battleground state, the Democrat has to persuade the electorate … that the Democrats are going to do a better job on the economy. … The economy is on everyone’s mind. Everything not everyone looks at their 401k every day, but it causes more economic anxiety,” Levy said.

He added that O’Rourke had to somehow shrink Abbott’s electoral base by shrinking independents because “he won’t displace Republicans.”

Newsweek contacted the Abbott and O’Rourke campaigns for comment.

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