Texas views on abortion, the economy, and guns from the February 2024 UT/Texas Politics Project Poll

Policy questions included in the February 2024 University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll focused mostly on subjects that previous polls and observation of the campaigns have suggested are issues most likely to be salient in the 2024 election campaigns.

The issues that primary voters cited in the open-ended question in the context of House primary elections (discussed in the election post for the February poll) broadly aligned with responses to the standard close-ended question regularly included in all University of Texas/Texas Politics polls asking voters about the most important problems facing the state: 42% of all voters say that either border security (24%) or immigration (18%) is the most important issue facing the state of Texas, with 11% saying political corruption or leadership, and 12% saying either inflation (8%) or the economy (4%). In a familiar pattern, Republican voters overwhelmingly cite immigration or border security as the most important problem facing the state (68%, compared to 14% of Democrats).

Loading chart...
categoryTotal
Border security24%
Immigration18%
Political corruption / leadership11%
Inflation / rising prices8%
Gun control / gun violence4%
The economy4%
Abortion4%

Democrats’ top issues included political corruption/leadership (23%), inflation (10%) or the economy (4%), abortion (9%), and gun control/gun violence (7%), indicating some difference between Democratic responses to this item and another item in the poll pegged to support in Democratic House primary elections given the different slices of the electorate (Democrats, and potential Democratic primary voters), contexts, and questions: Abortion appeared more salient in the context of the primary election – it was the most common response in the open-ended item – than in the more general item. This is likely the result of the focus on the Democratic primary election, which is less likely to activate partisan concerns about political leadership or suspicions about corruption that Democrats likely associate with Republican governance in Texas.

Loading chart...
CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Border security6%18%42%
Immigration8%26%26%
Political corruption / leadership23%9%1%
Inflation / rising prices10%10%5%
Gun control / gun violence7%0%1%
The economy4%8%4%
Abortion9%1%0%

These results were consistent with previous polling on issue salience, which resulted in the February poll’s focus on Texas voters’ attitudes on policy issues related to the border and immigration, abortion, and gun violence, in addition to the standard items assessing views of the economy included in all UT/Texas Politics Project polls.

Because border security and immigration have been central issues in Texas politics and among Texas voters, results of multiple questions on these subjects are presented in detail in the overview post for the February poll.

ABORTION: Increased support among Texas voters for making laws less strict

In the aftermath of the implementation of a near-total ban on abortion access in the state following restrictive laws passed in Texas in 2021 and the Dobbs decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 that overturned Roe v. Wade’s constitutional protection of abortion access during the first trimester, 45% of Texas voters say abortion laws in Texas should be made less strict, while 27% said they should be more strict, and 21% said they should be left as they are now. Two-thirds of Democrats (66%) and nearly a quarter of Republicans (24%) favored making Texas’ laws less strict, while a plurality of Republicans (35%) favored leaving those laws as they are now with slightly fewer favoring making them more strict (32%). Only 5% of Democrats favored the status quo, though a quarter (25%) also favored making abortion laws more strict.

Loading chart...
categoryTotal
More strict27%
Left as they are now21%
Less strict45%
Don't know/No opinion7%

Prior to the changes in state law and the removal of federal protections, between 26% and 37% of Texas voters said abortion laws in the state should be less strict in four surveys where the question was asked between 2013 and 2021. Since then, five UT/Texas Politics Project polls from 2022 through 2024 find between 43% and 50% of Texas voters saying the laws should be made less strict.

Loading chart...
SurveyMore strictLeft as they are nowLess strict
June 201338%21%26%
Feb. 201941%20%32%
Feb. 202132%18%37%
Apr. 202133%22%33%
Feb. 202223%23%43%
Aug. 202220%21%49%
Oct. 202218%25%50%
Feb. 202322%21%47%
Feb. 202427%21%45%
Apr. 202420%23%45%

Asked if, and how long into a pregnancy, a woman should be able to access a legal abortion based on seven different circumstances, a majority of Texas voters approved of at least some access between within the first 6 weeks to at any time during the pregnancy. Overall, 54% of voters said that a woman should have some time to access a legal abortion if she is unmarried and doesn’t want to marry; 55% if she is married and doesn’t want any more children; 58% if the family is low income and can’t afford any more children; 73% if there is a strong chance of a serious birth defect; 80% each if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest; and 85% if the woman’s health is seriously endangered.

Loading chart...
categoryTotal
The woman’s health is seriously endangered.85%
The woman became pregnant as a result of rape.80%
The woman became pregnant as a result of incest.80%
There is a strong chance of a serious birth defect.73%
The family has very low income and cannot afford any more children.58%
The woman is married and does not want any more children.55%
The woman is not married and does not want to marry.54%

While the results have remained largely unchanged since this set of questions was last asked in February 2023, the share supporting some access to legal abortion increased marginally in each of the seven circumstances tested, while the share endorsing no access to abortion given the circumstance decreased marginally in each of the seven instances.

Democrats will look to leverage this opinion landscape in the upcoming election based on Democratic successes in other states where abortion has been on the ballot (though there are no abortion-related measures on the ballot in Texas), and on the importance of the issue to Democratic constituencies. Among likely Democratic primary voters, 28% said it was important for them to vote for a candidate who agrees with them on abortion policy, with another 5% mentioning women’s rights, healthcare, or equality in response to an open-ended question (compared to 10% of potential Republican primary voters).

VIEWS OF THE ECONOMY

As in many national polls, Texans’ views of their economic situation and the economy show small signs of improvement after a long period of stagnation and the sharp decline seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, though evaluations remain, on balance, negative overall.

The share of Texas voters who said their personal economic conditions were better than one year before remained small, 23% compared to the share who said they were worse off (40%) or “about the same” (35%). But the share who said they were better off increased by 8 percentage points compared to October, while the worse-off share also declined by 8 points in the same period. 

Loading chart...
PollBetterSame Compared to a Year AgoWorse
October 200917%39%43%
February 201017%41%41%
May 201020%42%38%
September 201020%39%40%
October 201019%38%41%
February 201120%45%35%
May 201118%40%41%
October 201116%40%43%
February 201220%45%34%
May 201219%48%32%
October 201223%43%34%
June 201325%44%30%
October 201322%41%35%
February 201425%43%31%
June 201427%42%29%
October 201427%42%30%
February 201527%44%28%
June 201526%48%24%
November 201523%45%30%
February 201625%45%28%
June 201623%44%29%
October 201627%44%27%
February 201727%50%23%
June 201725%52%20%
October 201731%47%21%
February 201838%42%18%
June 201837%42%20%
October 201839%39%19%
February 201940%39%19%
June 201940%37%19%
October 201940%38%18%
February 202041%38%19%
April 202028%34%35%
June 202024%43%31%
October 202023%44%31%
February 202118%49%29%
March 202122%49%28%
April 202121%53%23%
June 202123%49%25%
August 202120%46%31%
October 202120%43%35%
February 202221%39%38%
April 202217%37%43%
June 202214%32%53%
August 202217%38%42%
October 202213%35%49%
December 202216%36%46%
February 202316%35%46%
April 202321%33%44%
June 202319%36%42%
August 202318%35%45%
October 202319%32%47%
December 202323%35%40%
February 202427%33%39%
April 202425%32%41%

Assessments of the Texas economy improved by similar margins, with the share of voters saying the state economy was better off increasing from 19% in October to 28% in February, while the share saying it was worse dropping  from 39% to 32% in the same period. 

The greatest improvements are evident in assessments of the national economy, though these improvements are also from a low baseline. Looking at the same period, the share who said the U.S. economy was better off than one year prior increased from 23% in October to 33% in February, while the share saying it was worse decreased from 55% to 43%.

GUN POLICY: Broad support for raising the age for purchasing guns amidst continuing difference in underlying attitudes

The February UT/TxP Poll finds 73% of Texas voters supporting “raising the legal age to purchase any firearm from 18 years of age to 21 years of age” – including a majority, 52%, strongly supportive – and 20% in opposition. Majority support is bipartisan: 90% of Democrats support raising the age along with 63% of Republicans, among whom 32% expressed opposition.

Loading chart...
categoryTotal
Strongly support52%
Somewhat support21%
Somewhat oppose9%
Strongly oppose11%
Don't know/No opinion6%

In the first legislative session since the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the Legislature failed to move forward any legislation significantly impacting gun access in the state, despite the loud and persistent support of the victims’ parents and advocates for legislation that was less restrictive than the hypothetical proposal in the poll question. That bill would have raised the age to legally purchase a broad class of semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 years of age. This is the third survey (also asked in April 2023, June 2023) since that proposal was voted out of committee in May 2022 (but never scheduled for floor debate) to find approximately three-quarters of Texas voters supportive of raising the age to purchase a firearm, and one in five in opposition.

Loading chart...
CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Strongly support72%44%37%
Somewhat support18%12%26%
Somewhat oppose3%10%15%
Strongly oppose3%20%17%
Don't know/No opinion4%14%6%

When asked in the latest poll whether the U.S. would be safer, less safe, or the same if more people carried guns, the plurality of Texas voters, 45%, said this would make the U.S. less safe, with 31% saying it would increase safety.

Loading chart...
categoryTotal
More safe31%
Less safe45%
No impact on safety15%
Don't know/No opinion8%

Stark partisan differences in underlying attitudes about the impact of gun ownership both condition voters’ responses to potential new legislation and limit discussion of restrictions on gun ownership in the legislature. Among Democrats, 74% said that more people carrying guns would reduce safety, while among Republicans, 51% said more people with guns would make the U.S. safer, with 20% saying it would make the U.S. less safe and 18% saying it would have no impact on safety. 

Loading chart...
CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
More safe12%24%51%
Less safe74%40%20%
No impact on safety11%19%18%
Don't know/No opinion3%17%10%

The slim majority of Republicans saying that more people carrying guns would improve safety in February polling represented the smallest share saying this in 7 surveys going back to October 2017, when 66% of Republicans said more people carrying guns would improve safety. Over the same period, the share saying it would make the U.S. less safe has increased from 13% to 20%.

The February 2024 University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll surveyed 1,200 self-declared registered voters in Texas from February 2-12, 2024, and has a margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points (3.49% adjusted for weighting), unless otherwise noted. Data collection was carried out by YouGov over the internet. For detailed methodological information, including sampling and weighting, see pages 52-54 of the summary document for the poll, or the methodological information contained in the Texas Politics Project Polling data archive.

For more results, graphics, and analysis, see the release post and a post looking at attitudes relevant to the Texas primary election explored in the poll.

Subscribe to the Texas Politics Project Email List

* indicates required

 

Keywords: guns, abortion, economy