Editor’s note: This story is part of a series reporting on the latest Bexar Facts poll. Find more coverage on our Bexar Facts page.
Public support for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has fallen significantly among Bexar County voters since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Bexar Facts-KSAT-San Antonio Report poll released on Tuesday.
The poll of 619 registered Bexar County voters marks the third publicly released survey of San Antonio-area voters for Abbott’s approval in 2020, providing a recent history of shifting local public opinion.
According to the poll, 45% of voters support Abbott’s job performance while 50% disapprove. That’s a vast drop from April, when 70% of voters supported Abbott’s performance and only 27% disapproved. Abbott is not up for reelection this year, as his current term expires in 2022.
While the percentage of Bexar County voters who say they “somewhat disapprove” of Abbott has stayed relatively stagnant since April, the chunk of voters who say they “strongly disapprove” of Abbott’s decisions has more than doubled.
Only 24% of respondents said they “strongly approve” of Abbott in September, compared to 39% who “strongly approved” in April.
A look into the crosstabs of the poll provides more context for the drop, including how voters who identify as Republican and Democrat have reacted, said Dave Metz, founder of FM3 Research, which conducted the Bexar Facts poll.
Since April, Abbott lost a large block of support from both Democrats (30% drop) and independents (28% drop), but also from Republicans (13% drop).
“Abbott’s Bexar County numbers reflect a trend we have seen around the country – which is a rallying of bipartisan support in the immediate wake of the pandemic, and then a steady return to partisan polarization over the course of the summer," said Metz. "Abbott has lost the most ground with Democrats and independents over the last few months, and his job approval rating now (45%) mirrors the share of the vote he got in Bexar County in 2018.”
Sharon Navarro, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio in the Department of Political Science and Geography, said she’s not surprised by the results because Bexar County voters lean left.
“Do I think it will hurt him in the long run? No, in 2014, Abbott won Bexar County but then lost in 2018 and he still won the overall election," Navarro said. “Texas is a red state and unless the Democrats have a strong candidate who can raise and spend the money at the rate and level that Abbott does, this state will remain red.”
Navarro said she thinks Abbott’s coronavirus response plays a major role in the changing approval numbers.
“His handling of the coronavirus, closing bars and not restaurants, and the no mask/mask issue have all played a role,” she said.
Early in the pandemic, Abbott provided multiple updates to the public every week on the state’s plans to mitigate the virus and mitigate economic hemorrhaging. Abbott issued stay-at-home orders statewide at the end of March but allowed them to expire in late April and began a phased reopening plan in May.
Since then, he’s allowed restaurants and retail stores to reopen at limited capacity but kept bars and other places closed. In addition to a statewide mask mandate in July - which excepted rural counties with less than 20 reported cases - Abbott has recommended, not ordered, Texans to stay home. Abbott allowed schools to reopen under certain restrictions.
Abbott has been admonished by some on both the left and right for either opening up too soon or being too harsh in the restrictions he issued.
Despite the loss in support from 13% of Republican voters in Bexar County, according to the poll, Navarro does not believe Abbott is in serious danger of a Republican primary challenge come 2022.
In fact, Navarro said she thinks Abbott’s approval numbers will climb again after the November election.
“Right now, Trump’s performance and handling of COVID and his finances is what is hurting Republicans. However, it will be a different story when midterm elections come around," she said.
KSAT will publish more results from the poll — from local propositions and approval ratings to the biggest issues facing San Antonio and evolving public opinion on the coronavirus pandemic and policing — in the coming days in our Bexar Facts section.
See the full poll and find more information about it on the Bexar Facts website. There, you can also take the survey for yourself (those results will be recorded but not reflected in the scientific results.)
Stay up to date with the latest election news and resources on our Vote 2020 page.