What Matthew McConaughey as Texas governor could mean for US politics

The Oscar-winning actor has outpolled current governor Greg Abbott in a hypothetical vote

A new hypothetical poll of registered voters has favoured Matthew McConaughey over incumbent Greg Abbott for the post of Texas governor. AP
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The people have spoken. In November last year, Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey floated the idea of running for governor of Texas, telling radio host Hugh Hewitt, “It would be up to the people.”

Now, a new poll shows the people want the Texas native to make the leap into politics. In a poll of registered voters conducted by The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler released Sunday, McConaughey received more votes than incumbent governor Greg Abbott, who is seeking a third term in office.

When asked who they were more likely to vote for in a hypothetical contest, 45 per cent of voters picked McConaughey while 33 per cent chose Abbott, who is in the Republican Party. The rest of the voters said they would vote for neither.

The next Texas governor elections will be held in November 2022.

Matthew McConaughey accepts his Oscar for best actor for his role in 'Dallas Buyers Club'. Reuters
Matthew McConaughey accepts his Oscar for best actor for his role in 'Dallas Buyers Club'. Reuters

The 51-year-old actor has been outspoken about his interest in politics. Last month, he told The Balanced Voice podcast he was "seriously considering" a run for governor.

“I’m looking into now again, what is my leadership role?” he said. “Because I do think I have some things to teach and share, and what is my role? What’s my category in my next chapter of life that I’m going into?”

Political stance

If he were to run for office against Abbott, it's still unclear which of the two major US political parties – Republican or Democratic – McConaughey would join. The actor, who won a Best Actor Oscar for the 2013 film Dallas Buyers Club, has never publicly supported a single party, and has often taken a middle ground when it comes to hot-button political issues.

"The two sides got to talk," he said on the press tour for the 2018 film White Boy Rick.

Matthew McConaughey and his wife Camila Alves live in Austin, Texas. AFP
Matthew McConaughey and his wife Camila Alves live in Austin, Texas. AFP

At the same tour, he called gun violence in the US an "epidemic" but raised concerns that March for Our Lives, organised after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, could be "hijacked" by the anti-gun movement.

"March for Our Lives was for rightful, just, responsible gun ownership — but against assault rifles, against unlimited magazines, and for following up on the regulations," he said.

Last year, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic McConaughey was outspoken about the use of masks – another divisive issue – and even filmed a video encouraging people to wear them.

The actor, who was arrested in 1999 for marijuana possession, is also for legalisation of the drug, another hot topic in Texas politics.

A true son of Texas

Regardless of his political stands, McConaughey, who lives in Austin with his wife Camila Alves and three children, has pulled his weight when it comes to stepping in to help his state. In February, when Texas was hit with a severe winter storm, he and Alves organised a virtual concert on YouTube through their Just Keep Livin’ Foundation to help those in need.

During the lockdowns in April last year, McConaughey hosted a virtual Bingo Night for residents of The Enclave, an assisted living community in Texas.

He has also worked actively with the Texas government, and filmed a number of public service announcements, from urging people to help stop human trafficking to staying home during the pandemic.

McConaughey, who broke through with his role as a lawyer in the 1996 film A Time to Kill, has had a storied career in Hollywood with films such as How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), Magic Mike (2012), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Mud (2013) and Interstellar (2014). He was last seen in the action comedy The Gentleman, which released in 2019, and will next voice a character in Sing 2, a sequel to the 2016 hit animated musical.

Last year, McConaughey released a memoir called Greenlights, which instantly became a New York Times bestseller. The book includes stories and insights from his life in chronological order and includes aphorisms, poems and advice.

Actor politicians

If he does enter politics, he will join a long list of actors and celebrities who've made the transition. Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood star before he became governor of California and went on to serve two terms as US president. Donald Trump was a reality TV star and businessman before becoming president in 2016, and Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger was the governor of California between 2003 and 2011.

Last week, Fast & Furious star Dwayne Johnson – one of the highest-paid and most popular actors in the US – said he would run for US president if he felt he had enough support from Americans.

"I do have that goal to unite our country and I also feel that if this is what the people want, then I will do that," Johnson said on the Today show.

As far as his political goals are concerned, in an interview with Men's Journal last year, McConaughey said he was not interested in "putting a bunch of band-aids on things".

“When facing any crisis, I’ve found that a good plan is to first recognise the problem, then stabilise the situation, organise the response, then respond,” he said.