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Rice Poll: Texas Governor Greg Abbott could face tough race if Beto O'Rourke runs in 2022

The poll from Rice University and the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation shows the Democrat in a virtual tie with the Republican incumbent.

HOUSTON, Texas — We’re still a year out from the battle over Texas Governor, but polls are already providing a peek into how the race might shape up.

From Matthew McConaughey to Beto O'Rourke, we've heard some big names mentioned who could challenge Republican incumbent Governor Greg Abbott.

A new poll out from Rice University is giving early predictions of how that battle might play out next November. 

“While an Abbott victory 2022 Republican Primary is a forgone conclusion, an Abbott victory in the 2022 General Election is not a foregone conclusion," Mark Jones, Rice University Professor of Political Science said. 

Rice University's Baker Institute teamed up with the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation to poll 1,402 registered voters from October 14 to October 27.

What they found is Governor Abbott should win the March Republican Primary.

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“Abbott's shift to the right in the 2021 legislative session really helped bolster his support among Republican primary voters,” Jones said. 

But when it comes to November, the race could be much tighter.

Among those registered voters, the poll shows 43% would choose Governor Abbott, 42% would choose Beto O'Rourke, and 12% are still unsure.

“What this shows us is that Greg Abbott's support among general election voters has diminished. And while he’s still considered to be the favorite to win, we can’t say at the present time that he’s a lock to beat Beto O'Rourke in November of 2022,” Jones said. 

Texans have also tossed around Matthew McConaughey, who lives in Austin, as a potential candidate. But Jones says while the actor has the highest approval rating, he may struggle actually winning the race. 

“Those have not translated into a high vote intention. When we test McConaughey, he’s only getting the support of 1 out of every 10 Texans,” Jones said. 

The study also takes a deeper look at Hispanic voters to give a more accurate prediction of their votes.

“Highlighting the extent to which the Hispanic community is not a monolith, but rather it is a diverse group that has to be looked as individuals -- or at least smaller sub-groups -- as opposed to just saying the Hispanics vote this way or Hispanics vote that way,” Jones said. 

The poll also shows Attorney General Ken Paxton has an overwhelming lead in the Republican primary in his race for re-election. 

Tap here for a closer look at the poll. 

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