Reviewing Texas Attitudes Toward Campus Carry as Law Goes into Effect

"Campus carry" – the ability of holders of a concealed handgun license to carry concealed handguns on public universities (all but one of the state's private universities have reportedly opted out using a loophole for them provided by the Texas Legislature) – goes into effect today, including at the University of Texas at Austin. As we've seen intertwined increases in Second Amendment fundamentalism, heavily publicized mass shootings throughout the United States, and activism in Texas aimed at expanding gun rights, we've conducted extensive polling on gun-related issues over the last few years. In February 2013, we included a large battery of questions on attitudes toward guns in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting the previous December and amidst the introduction of campus carry and other legislation seeking to relax restrictions on guns in the 83rd Texas Legislature.

As the 84th Legislature convened, attitudes toward the idea of guaranteeing concealed carry rights on college campuses were divided among partisan lines in the February 2015 UT/Texas Tribune Poll. The Legislature eventually passed the campus carry law going into effect today as well as an open carry law, both signed by Governor Abbott. The almost mirror images among partisan lines (thought with Democrats more uniform in their strong opposition than were Republicans in their strong support) resulted in an almost even split overall, with support exceeding opposition by just two percentage points (47 percent to 45 percent). In terms of the success of the legislation in 2015, it's also worth noting that when Tea Party Republicans are separated out from non-Tea Party Republicans, the Tea Party identifiers emerged as intensely supportive – 55 percent strongly supported campus carry, compared to 22 percent of non-Tea Party Republicans expressing strong support. There was also a significant gender gap in support: 55 percent of men supported it (29 percent strongly), while only 38 percent of women expressed supported (15 percent strongly); and 35 percent of women strongly opposed, compared to 29 percent of men.

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categorycolumn-1
Strongly support22%
Somewhat support25%
Somewhat oppose13%
Strongly oppose32%
Don't know8%

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categoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Strongly support8%13%35%
Somewhat support15%20%34%
Somewhat oppose13%22%12%
Strongly oppose57%29%13%
Don't know7%16%7%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Strongly support8%22%55%
Somewhat support14%35%31%
Somewhat oppose13%14%8%
Strongly oppose58%19%5%
Don't know7%9%2%

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categoryMaleFemale
Strongly support29%15%
Somewhat support26%23%
Somewhat oppose10%16%
Strongly oppose29%35%
Don't know6%10%

Discussion of a campus carry proposal had been of a moderately high profile since now-departed Senator Jeff Wentworth unsuccessfully tried to pass it in the 82nd session in 2011. The patterns in support for campus carry between 2013 and 2015 changed only slightly, with an 8 point decrease in Republican support and 3 point increase in Democratic support in the interim.

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categorycolumn-1
Strongly support28%
Somewhat support20%
Somewhat oppose12%
Strongly oppose35%
Don't know/no opinion5%

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categoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Strongly support9%32%44%
Somewhat support11%17%30%
Somewhat oppose15%10%10%
Strongly oppose58%35%14%
Don't know/no opinion8%6%3%

As of the outset of the 2015 session, there was a satisfaction with the status quo on gun laws that may well have provided the opening for campus carry: 45 percent of Texas voters agreed that Texans should be allowed to carry a concealed handgun in a public place, as long as they have a license – including 43 percent of Democrats. Texas' loyal opposition party, however, was split evenly between the status quo and a much more prohibitionist change: 43 percent of Democrats said that Texans should never be allowed to carry a handgun in a public place – a statement only 7 percent of Texas Republicans shared in the survey. By comparison, 29 percent of Republicans favored licensed open carry – and another 14 percent (and 30 percent of Tea Party Republicans) agreed with the proposition that "Texans should always be allowed to carry a handgun in a public place, and should not be required to have a license to do so."

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categorycolumn-1
Texans should never be allowed to carry a handgun in a public place.23%
Texans should be allowed to carry a concealed handgun in a public place, as long as they have a license.45%
Texans should also be allowed to openly carry a handgun in a public place, as long as they have a license to do so.22%
Texans should always be allowed to carry a handgun in a public place, and should not be required to have a license to do so.10%

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categoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Texans should never be allowed to carry a handgun in a public place.43%14%7%
Texans should be allowed to carry a concealed handgun in a public place, as long as they have a license.43%34%50%
Texans should also be allowed to openly carry a handgun in a public place, as long as they have a license to do so.11%39%29%
Texans should always be allowed to carry a handgun in a public place, and should not be required to have a license to do so.3%14%14%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Texans should never be allowed to carry a handgun in a public place.45%12%0%
Texans should be allowed to carry a concealed handgun in a public place, as long as they have a license.43%60%33%
Texans should also be allowed to openly carry a handgun in a public place, as long as they have a license to do so.11%22%37%
Texans should always be allowed to carry a handgun in a public place, and should not be required to have a license to do so.2%6%30%

In the wake of the passage of campus carry and open carry legislation, 22 percent of Texans reported that open carry made them feel more safe; 37 percent said that it made them fell less safe; and 34 percent said it had no effect on their feelings of safety – including 45 percent of Republicans.

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categorycolumn-1
More safe22%
Less safe37%
No effect34%
Don't know/No opinion8%

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categoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
More safe11%20%34%
Less safe62%27%15%
No effect20%44%45%
Don't know/No opinion7%9%6%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
More safe9%34%46%
Less safe69%17%5%
No effect17%43%45%
Don't know/No opinion6%6%4%