As early voters head to the polls for a landmark election in Texas, a new survey conducted for KHOU-TV and Houston Public Media shows Republican Greg Abbott with a commanding lead over Democrat Wendy Davis in the race for governor.
Abbott's supported by 47 percent of likely voters surveyed for the poll, compared to Davis' 32 percent. Another 15 percent were undecided.
Green Party candidates Brandon Parmer carried 1.4 percent and Libertarian Kathie Glass .7 percent. About 2 percent of surveyed voters wouldn't say who they're supporting.
"There always could be a crisis, a major gaffe, something like that," said Bob Stein, the Rice University political scientist and KHOU analyst who supervised the poll. "But it's very hard to imagine that you can reverse a double-digit lead."
This latest poll dovetails with other surveys conducted earlier this year showing Abbott with a double-digit lead over Davis, indicating few voters have changed their minds during the course of the campaign.
In the lieutenant governor's race, Republican Dan Patrick also has a double-digit lead over his Democratic opponent, Leticia Van de Putte. Patrick's supported by 36 percent of surveyed voters compared to Van de Putte's 24 percent.
Libertarian Robert Butler had 1.8 percent in the lieutenant governor poll and Green Party candidate Chandrakantha Courtney .9 percent. Another 3.3 percent said they were voting for someone else, while about 2 percent declined to answer the question.
Democrats hoped Van de Putte's presence on the ballot would energize Hispanic voters, but the survey indicates that hasn't happened. About 36 percent of Hispanic voters told pollsters they didn't know how they were voting for governor, and about 34 percent said they were unsure how they'd vote for lieutenant governor.
"If Leticia Van de Putte has a name that's recognizable, it's not moving what we consider to be core Democratic voters," Stein said. "Self-identified Hispanics and self-identified Democrats are still undecided."
Even a large number of Davis supporters believe Abbott will win the election, the poll indicates. When asked who they thought would win the governor's race regardless of who they supported, 54 percent predicted Abbott would become the next governor while only 22 percent named Davis. About two-thirds of surveyed Davis voters believe their candidate will lose, Stein said.
The poll of 781 likely voters was conducted by the Survey Research Center at University of Houston Center for Public Policy between Sept. 22 and Oct. 16. The margin of error was 3.5 percent.
The timing of the survey happened to coincide with a period before and after the Davis campaign launched its hard-hitting "wheelchair ad" criticizing Abbott for opposing plaintiffs suing for damages while Abbott himself collected a multi-million dollar settlement over the 1984 accident that left him a paraplegic. As a result, the poll offers a clue about whether the controversial political spot influenced voters.
"It's had no impact on the distribution of the vote," Stein said. "And it's had even less impact on mobilizing people who otherwise, we think, would be supportive of Wendy Davis."
The survey also indicates straight-ticket voters in Texas are more likely to cast their lots with Republicans than Democrats. About 28 perccent said they would vote for all Republicans, compared to 20 percent voting straight Democrat.
For more on the KHOU – Houston Public Media Texas Poll, tune in to 88.7 FM, Houston Public Radio.