Texas Gov. Greg Abbott 7 points ahead of Beto O'Rourke in latest poll

Gov. Greg Abbott holds a 7-percentage point edge over Democratic rival Beto O'Rourke, according to a poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University. It's the latest of several surveys that have found a single-digit lead for Abbott, but the finding is well outside the margin of error.

The Quinnipiac poll found 53% of likely voters favoring Abbott and 46% favoring O'Rourke. Perhaps most worrisome for O'Rourke, nearly all voters — 96% — who support a candidate in the race say their minds are made up about how they will vote.

Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston political science professor, said the poll confirms that Republicans and Democrats are largely unified around their respective candidate. The poll found that 96% of Republicans favored Abbott, while 96% of Democrats favored O'Rourke.

"There's not a lot of wiggle room," he said. "This is going to be a very base versus base election, and there are likely a lot of people in the middle who may not choose to vote."

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Texas-Mexico border No. 1 issue

Nearly 38% of respondents said the Texas-Mexico border was the most urgent issue, with abortion and inflation being the next most important issues.

Abbott's campaign has centered largely around the border and economy. The governor has sunk nearly $4 billion of state money into the Operation Lone Star initiative, which has sent thousands of National Guard soldiers and state troopers to the border, along with busing migrants to Washington, New York and Chicago.

Likely voters in Texas are divided on migrant busing with 51% approving the action and 47% disapproving. Republicans heavily favor the action while Democrats largely disapprove.

A majority of respondents said Abbott would handle the border, gun policy and the economy better than O'Rourke.

"That is a trifecta," Rottinghaus said. "If the race is framed to be about those issues, Abbott's going to have a much easier time."

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Abortion access most urgent for Democrats

O'Rourke's campaign has focused on abortion access since Texas implemented a near-total ban on the medical procedure after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer. O'Rourke also has called for greater gun restrictions since the Uvalde school shooting left 19 children and two teachers dead.

Abortion ranked second as the most urgent issue in the poll with 17% of respondents selecting it as the most pressing concern. For Democrats, it was considered the most urgent issue at 36%, with gun policy ranking second at 17%.

But only 8% of the total respondents said that gun policy was the most important issue.

Abbott campaign spokesman Mark Miner said in a statement the campaign is "not focused on polls."

"We will continue to run a campaign focused on the governor's vision to secure the future of Texas while highlighting Beto's support for open borders, defunding police and radical environmental policies that will kill hundreds of thousands of energy jobs."

O'Rourke has said he does not support defunding police departments and doesn't support "open borders." His campaign did not immediately return requests for comment on the poll.

The poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, surveyed 1,327 likely voters Sept. 22-26.

Abbott and O'Rourke will debate at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley at 7 p.m. Friday, which could prove critical for either campaign. But Rottinghaus said debates generally happen too late in a race to make a big difference.

Oct. 11 is the last day to register to vote for the midterm election. Early voting starts Oct. 24. Election Day is Nov. 8.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Texas governor race: Greg Abbott leads Beto O'Rourke by 7 points