Wendy Davis’ attempt to jump from abortion activist to Texas governor is failing so far, as a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll has the pro-life state Attorney General leading her so far.
The poll finds Greg Abbott leading Davis in the race for governor, 40% to 34%. In a three-way race against Davis and Libertarian Kathie Glass, Abbott’s lead remains at 5 percent, 40-35 percent.
The poll’s director says the numbers measure the fact that Davis is well known, due to her support for late-term abortions, not that she really has much of a chance, at this point, of beating Abbott.
“What you’ve got is a race in which, for the first time in a long time, the Democrat is as well-known as the Republican at the outset of the race,” said poll co-director Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin.
“These numbers are not evidence that the underlying fundamentals are changing in Texas,” said Jim Henson, who co-directs the poll and heads the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “We have not seen a big change in party identification, and we don’t see any large-scale shifts in the underlying attitudes that are forming.”
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted Oct. 18-27 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. Results among self-identified Republican primary voters carry a margin of error of +/- 5.02 percentage points; among Democratic primary voters, +/- 6.03 percentage points. Numbers in the charts might not add up to 100 percent, because of rounding.
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Political science professor Michael New explained how the abortion issue will hurt Davis in Texas.
Political scientists know the results of abortion polls are very sensitive to the wording of the survey questions. The poll Stanford cites — which was clearly worded to bias respondents toward a “pro-choice” position — still showed that less than 35 percent of those in certain key demographic groups in Texas support legal abortion. Furthermore, Senator Davis’s chosen conduit into the national spotlight was her outspoken support for brutal late-term abortions — beyond the fifth and sixth month of gestation. This is something that is strongly opposed by most Americans, especially in a red state like Texas.
Indeed, there is plenty of survey data indicating that abortion after 20 weeks of gestation is unpopular. Three separate national polls conducted this summer by National Journal, Rasmussen, and NBC/Wall Street Journal all indicated that a clear plurality of Americans support banning abortion after 20 weeks of gestation. Furthermore, key demographic groups support 20-week abortion bans. The two polls which broke down the results by age found a plurality of young adults supported such a ban. Even more important, in each of these three polls, women were actually more likely than men to support banning abortion after 20 weeks gestation.
Furthermore, Davis appears to be distancing herself from the abortion issue. During a Twitter townhall this summer, Senator Davis refused to answer any questions about her own abortion stance. She answered twelve questions on a range of topics including infrastructure, payday lending, and college-tuition benefits. However, abortion was never once discussed. Additionally, Davis’s first campaign ad was released earlier this month. It makes no mention of her position on abortion.
Wendy Davis’s 13-hour filibuster of a 20-week abortion ban this past June certainly raised her national profile. It may well help her raise money from supporters of legal abortion outside Texas. However, there is little evidence that Senator Davis’s extreme position on abortion has endeared her to Texas voters.