Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's ratings fell during the pandemic, UT/TT Poll finds

Gov. Greg Abbott gives an update on COVID-19 at a news conference in Austin. Credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell/Pool via Austin American-Statesman

Gov. Greg Abbott remains popular in Texas, but voters’ latest assessment of his job performance reveals the cost of his responses to the coronavirus, according to the new University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

The top lines are not bad: 47% of Texas registered voters approve of the governor’s overall job performance, while 40% do not — a 7-percentage-point spread. But in June, the spread was 10 percentage points. In April, it was 24 points — when the governor had just started reacting to the pandemic and had favorable ratings from 56% of voters and unfavorable ratings from 32%. One year ago, the governor’s good grades were 24 points higher than his bad ones; two years ago, it was 20 percentage points.

Voters’ ratings of Abbott’s COVID-19 response have also dropped. In April, at the beginning of the state government’s response to the pandemic, 56% of Texas voters approved of Abbott’s action and 29% disapproved. Approval of his responses slid 12 percentage points since then, and disapproval rose by 17 points; in the latest poll, 44% approved and 46% disapproved.

“There’s a COVID bump, early in the response to the pandemic and being the person in charge of that response,” said James Henson, who heads the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin and co-directs the poll.

“But once it starts going south, Abbott’s numbers are moving in one direction and it’s down,” he said. “It’s only three polls, but it’s hard to look at these numbers and say the pandemic has been good for Greg Abbott’s job approval. Because it hasn’t.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s numbers cancel out: 37% approval of his job performance and 37% disapprove, compared with 39%-32% a year ago. House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who isn’t seeking reelection this year, is in similar shape, with 23% approving his performance and 24% disapproving. Most — 53% — gave Bonnen neutral marks or no marks at all.

The UT/TT Poll also asked voters how they feel about the political parties. Almost half — 47% — said the Republican Party “is welcoming to people like you,” and 44% said it’s not. As one might expect, 84% of Republicans felt welcome and 11% of Democrats felt that way. At the same time, 6% of Republicans and 85% of Democrats said the Republican Party is inhospitable. Independent voters were one-sided, but less than the partisans, with 23% saying the GOP is welcoming, 50% saying it’s not and 27% offering no opinion.

Asked about the Democratic Party, the overall result was similar, and the internal results were flipped. Overall, 43% said the party is welcoming and 47% said it is not. Among the Democrats, 82% said the party is welcoming, along with 13% of Republicans who agreed. And while 9% of Democrats said their party is unwelcoming, 81% of Republicans hold that view. Independents were consistent in their nonattachment, with 27% saying the Democratic Party is welcoming, 41% saying it’s not and 32% offering no opinion.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Sept. 25 to Oct. 4 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100% because of rounding.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.


UT/TT Poll, October 2020, Summary (day 1)

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