Before Trump Raised It, Majority of Texas Voters Favored Repeal of Birthright Citizenship

Donald Trump's call to repeal birthright citizenship as currently provided under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution has ignited a potential firestorm among the many remaining candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination. While the call to end birthright citizenship has been somewhat common among anti-immigration advocates, it has not been widely or consistently discussed in the mainstream due to the immense difficulty, and low probability, of enacting such a change. However, we included an item on this proposal as part of a battery of questions that explored different attitudes toward a range of immigration policy proposals in the February 2011 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. The wording of the item was as follows:

"As you may know, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution says that all children born in the United States are automatically U.S. citizens regardless of their parents' legal status. Would you favor or oppose changing the Constitution to REPEAL this part of the 14th Amendment?" Respondents were able to select "favor," "oppose," or "don't know" in response.

Overall, a bare but clear majority of Texans favored ending birthright citizenship, as the chart below illustrates. (To see results from the other questions in the immigration battery from that poll, you'll find all the results from the February 2011 poll in our polling archive.)

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Don't know10%

Sorting the results by party identification reveals that Republicans supported repeal, while Democrats opposed it.

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Don't know9%14%7%

Not surprisingly, given what we know about the intense support of restrictive views on immigration policy among Tea Party identifiers, Tea Party Republicans were significantly more supportive of repeal than were non-Tea Party Republicans –though non-Tea Party Republicans still supported repeal by a margin of a little more than 2:1. 

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Don't know9%9%5%

At the time of this polling, restrictive views on immigration hovered over the nascent 2012 GOP nominating contest. Later in 2011, Rick Perry would be booed during a primary debate for expressing compassion for the children of illegal immigrants as he defended signing the so-called Texas dream act. There's not much reason to think that views on immigration among the electorate, especially the GOP primary electorate, have changed much since 2011. Four years later, in our February 2015 poll, we found a majority of Texans, and a large majority of Texas Republican, favoring the immediate deportation of people currently living in the country illegally. Donald Trump may be leading the discussion for the moment, but he's certainly not leading anywhere that a large number of GOP voters are unwilling to go – or hadn't already been before he issued his plan.

(You can also look at other breakdowns of the responses to the 2011 question on repealing birthright citizenship in our archive.)

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Strongly agree34%
Somewhat agree25%
Somewhat disagree16%
Strongly disagree19%
Don't know6%

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Strongly agree19%31%47%
Somewhat agree16%25%33%
Somewhat disagree22%12%11%
Strongly disagree37%22%5%
Don't know7%10%4%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Strongly agree14%39%62%
Somewhat agree17%37%26%
Somewhat disagree21%14%8%
Strongly disagree42%6%4%
Don't know6%3%0%