Posted on November 7, 2013 at 7:22 PM
Thursday, Nov 7 at 9:01 PM
AUSTIN -- It's a potential showdown featuring Texas' longest serving Republican attorney general and the state's most recognizable Democrat.
Next November, either Attorney General Greg Abbott (R-Texas) or state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) will likely be declared the state's next governor.
It's been 20 years since Texas elected a Democrat to statewide office, but a new poll released by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune (UT/TT) showed Davis just six points behind in a head-to-head match up against Abbott. The survey of 1,200 registered voters conducted online between October 18 and October 27 show Abbott leading Davis 40 percent to 34 percent, with 25 percent of voters undecided.
Pollster and Texas Politics Project director Dr. James R. Henson said that many Texans are still learning who Abbott is, while Davis has benefited from months of national media exposure following her filibuster of controversial abortion laws in June. While the numbers are close, Henson said they may be more illustrative of the strength of Davis' name recognition than a neck-and-neck race.
"There really isn't a race right now for most Texans that we're talking to," said Henson. "Most people are not thinking about the general election in 2014. It's a year away yet, so what we're really going out there and doing is getting a sense of where each candidate stands in the public consciousness."
A separate poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) showed Abbott ahead of Davis by as much as 15 points. The automated phone survey of 500 Texas voters conducted between November 1 and November 4 showed Abbott leading Davis 50 percent to 35 percent, with 15 percent of voters undecided.
When screened for "likely" voters, the UT/TT survey showed Abbott leading Davis 49 percent to 35 percent, a spread of 14 percentage points that tracked more closely with the figures in the PPP survey.
Henson said the "likely" screen becomes less useful further out from an election, and suggests the PPP results could come in part from respondents being "pushed" to make a choice they may not be sure of yet.
"In this case, what they're probably answering is: Are you a Republican or a Democrat? And that probably does look a lot more like a 14 point gap," said Henson.
Voters in downtown Austin Thursday seemed hesitant to gauge Davis' chances against a well-funded opponent in a state that has voted solidly Republican for the last two decades.
"About 50-50 at this point," said Phillip Overton.
"It depends if she gets the funding," said Doris Humphrey. "Greg Abbott has the funding behind him, so it might be hard."
"If a good job can be done doing voter registration, there is a really good chance that she could have a shocker," said Cliff Wildman, referring to the efforts of groups such as Battleground Texas to mobilize traditionally low-turnout, Democratic-leaning demographics.
Each poll offered a snapshot in time of one group of voters. This far out, any conclusions are only tentative.
"The question of what the electorate is going to be a year from now when voting starts is really a speculative question at this point," said Henson.
"From here on out there will be maybe as much as a hundred million dollars spent on this campaign in Texas, and you will have two human beings out there having some good days and having some bad days," said Henson. "So for all intents and purposes, the electorate per se really doesn't exist right now."
for UT/TT poll results, and here
for PPP poll full results.