Following the deadliest school shooting in Texas’s history, new polling finds that far right Gov. Greg Abbott’s unfavorability rating is higher than it’s ever been, while his lead over Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke may be shrinking.
As new findings from University of Texas/Texas Politics Project show, Abbott’s favorability was at 44 percent as of June, with another 44 percent of those polled saying that they view the governor unfavorably. This is the highest the latter has ever been, according to surveys conducted by the pollster ranging back to 2012, when Abbott was Texas’s attorney general.
The survey was taken directly after the devastating massacre in Uvalde, Texas, in which 21 people, including 19 children, were killed.
Abbott’s job approval ratings, meanwhile, have dipped back into the negatives, the poll finds. Forty six percent of those surveyed said they don’t approve of Abbott, while 43 said they approve. While Abbott has had net positive approval ratings for much of his time as governor, voters’ disapproval of his performance has been rising over the past year or so.
This could spell good news for O’Rourke, who’s running to unseat the extremist right-wing governor this fall. While the latest poll found that Abbott still has a lead over O’Rourke of 6 points among registered voters, this is smaller than the 9-point lead that Abbott had in April, according to the pollster.
The Texas Tribune reports that Texas Politics Project Director Jim Henson says that the scrutiny over Abbott’s response to the Uvalde shooting may have impacted the poll results. The poll found that only 36 percent of voters approve of how Abbott has handled gun violence, while 45 percent say they disapprove, with 38 percent saying they strongly disapprove.
Texas voters also increasingly believe that the state is headed in the wrong direction, at 59 percent, the highest proportion of voters since 2009. Only 31 percent said that they believe the state is going in the right direction, a major drop from roughly 40 percent in surveys done in October, February and April.
Texas has weak gun laws, as Republicans have worked to increase gun access in the state over the past years. The Uvalde shooter obtained the AR-style rifle and over 1,600 rounds of ammunition legally, just days before the shooting.
Abbott has faced widespread criticism over his response to Uvalde and other shootings that have happened in the state under his rule, after which he and his party either stall and do nothing or pass laws making it easier to access guns. The day after the Uvalde shooting, Abbott said that the shooting was “horrible,” but added that “it could have been worse.”
“The reason it was not worse is because law enforcement officials did what they do,” Abbott said at the time, referring to the police officers who waited 77 minutes before confronting the shooter as he was massacring children, and who later lied about their lax efforts to stop the shooter. “They showed amazing courage.”
O’Rourke confronted Abbott at the governor’s news conference shortly after the shooting. “You are doing nothing,” O’Rourke said as Republican officials yelled at him and he was escorted out of the room. “You are offering up nothing. You said this was not predictable. This was totally predictable when you choose not to do anything.”