In the university's June survey of Texas registered voters, two-term incumbent Abbott leads O’Rourke, a former El Paso congressman, 48% to 43%. In December, the same poll showed the Republican governor significantly ahead with a 52%-to-37% lead.
The poll is the first significant survey of Texas voters since the Uvalde school shooting, which took the lives of 19 children and two teachers. The response to the tragedy has been a strong differentiator between the candidates. Abbott has gone out of his way to avoid talking about gun reform, while O'Rourke has directly confronted the governor over his unwillingness to do so.
The poll shows Abbott with the strong backing of white men — 69% — while O'Rourke commands leads with women, Black and Latino voters. Younger voters also skew toward O'Rourke while older ones favor Abbott.
"O'Rourke, considered long on empathy, rides the momentum of support from women and young Texans in the horse race to Austin," Quinnipiac University analyst Tim Malloy said in an emailed statement.
A strong majority of parents in the poll said they are either very concerned (32%) or somewhat concerned (29%) there will be a shooting at their child's school. What's more, respondents said they favor stricter U.S. gun laws, 58% to 38%.
While Texas' Democratic voters said they were most concerned about gun policy issues, GOP voters ranked the Texas-Mexico border as their priority issue, according to Quinnipiac.
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