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A 54% majority of Texans believe the state is headed in the wrong direction, while just 45% think the state is on the right track, according to a survey conducted by The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler.
Abbott’s approval rating before the COVID-19 crisis began to grip the nation in March 2020 stood at 59%, the newspaper noted.
Big weekend news 📉 — Abbott's approval rating just dropped, again!
"Before the #COVID19 pandemic began to grip the country in March 2020, Abbott’s approval rating was 59%. It’s been dropping since January and is now at a rock-bottom 45%."#AbbottMustGohttps://t.co/mIG8aPPQLA
— Julie Johnson (@juliejohnsonTX) September 19, 2021
The Dallas Morning News linked the fall-off in support to Abbott’s “hard-right” turn of resisting mandated safety precautions for COVID, which has claimed 60,000 lives in the state, and on issues such as abortion and gun control.
Texas now has the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the nation, which criminalizes all abortions — even in cases of rape or incest — after six weeks, before most women even know they’re pregnant. The “pro-life” state also allows residents to carry a concealed gun without a permit.
The state is very nearly split on abortion, with 50% of those polled opposed to overturning Roe V. Wade, and 48% in favor of it being overturned, according to the poll. But only 34% support the law allowing concealed handguns without a permit. 50% oppose the gun law, and 16% are undecided.
Overall, Abbott’s more extreme positions have alienated a crucial swing bloc of voters, the independents, the Morning News notes. His job approval rating among independents has dropped from 53% early last year to just 30% this month, the poll found.
While Abbott’s positions are putting him ahead of potential conservative rivals in the 2022 gubernatorial race, they’re leaving him vulnerable to potential challenges by actor Matthew McConaughey and former El Paso congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.
44% of those surveyed said they would vote for McConaughey over Abbott in a hypothetical face-off for governor, which puts him 9 points ahead of Abbott. McConaughey polled slightly behind Abbott just two months ago.
The poll also found that 37% of those surveyed said they would vote for O’Rourke if he ran against Abbott in 2022. That puts O’Rourke in a striking distance of just 5 percentage points behind Abbott. He was 12 points behind Abbott two months ago.
The poll of 1,148 registered voters was conducted from Sept. 7 to 14 and has an error margin of plus or minus 2.9%.
A survey early this month from The Texas Policy Project at the University of Texas at Austin found similar results, with just 42% of Texans approving of the direction the state is going. That was Abbott’s lowest rating since he was elected in 2014.
Also on HuffPost
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.