The release of the February 2022 University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll coincides with the beginning of early voting in the Texas primaries, so trial ballots and all things election-related in the poll are likely to attract the most interest. Incumbent governor Greg Abbott leads former Congressman Beto O’Rourke 47% to 37% in a hypothetical match-up in the November General Election. In their primary races, Abbott remains above the run-off threshold, while O’Rourke is unsurprisingly a virtual consensus candidate among Democrats. If that’s your main interest, you can jump to a round-up of those results.
The poll sampled 1,200 self-declared registered voters in Texas between Jan. 28 and Feb. 7, 2022. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 2.83%.
Beyond the horse races, the poll paints a picture of a state experiencing strong political crosswinds in several policy areas. In some familiar issue areas, public opinion appears closely divided as a result of sharp and intense differences among partisans. In others, majorities (albeit often slim ones) oppose the direction state policy headed in the last legislative session, frequently as a result of broad Democratic opposition supplemented by divisions among Republicans. And on public education, explicit Republican efforts to take over an issue traditionally owned by Democrats is roiling attitudes related to education and public schools, with very mixed results.
Arching over all of these specific attitudes, Texans’ trust in the political system continues to show signs of extensive erosion, including indications of decayed assessments of how democracy is working and expectations of more political violence to come. More specifically, significant shares of Texans – despite the overwhelming preponderance of publicly available evidence to the contrary – believe that the results of the 2020 presidential election confirmed by election officials and/or legislatures in every state in the Union (and multiple courts of law) is not legitimate, and that the violent disruption of the Constitutional process of ratifying that result was not an attempt to overturn the election.
Texans’ views of the economy reflect those captured in many national polls and in frequent media coverage. Amidst a generally tight labor market, including low unemployment rates in most of Texas and resurgent growth, the return of inflation looms over Texans’ economic assessments, of both their households and the state and national economies.
For more specific results and some first-cut commentary, see below. You can use the following links below to jump to sections in this overview. COVID-19 and trend data for leadership approvals and Texan assessment of the overall environment are featured in posts on those subjects, though some highlights are also included below.
Gov. Abbott’s 10-point lead in a hypothetical match up with Beto O’Rourke reflects an unsurprising degree of partisanship, with Abbott enjoying a substantial lead among independents (42-21).
|Haven't thought about it enough to have an opinion||11%|
|Haven't thought about it enough to have an opinion||9%||21%||5%|
We surveyed likely Republican voters (registered voters who both have a history voting in one of the last three party primaries and indicate that they will be voting in the 2022 GOP primary) to capture their current preferences for three GOP primary races: Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General.
In the high-profile race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Abbott enjoyed a substantial lead over his closest challengers, with 60% of likely Republican primary voters preferring Abbott, 15% preferring former Republican state party chair Allen West, 14% saying they will be supporting former state senator Don Huffines, and three other candidates each receiving 5% support or less.
|Kandy Kaye Horn||1%|
In other marquee primary match-ups, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick held a comfortable lead in his bid to retain the Republican nomination, with 82% of likely Republican primary voters expressing support for the incumbent. The Republican Attorney General’s race finds incumbent Ken Paxton with the stated support of 47% of likely GOP primary voters, placing him in danger of a run-off in the face of three strong challengers: Land Commissioner George P. Bush received the support of 21% of likely primary voters, Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman received 16%, and U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert received 15%.
|George P. Bush||21%|
In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Beto O’Rourke enjoys a substantial lead over several lesser known candidates among likely voters (registered voters who both have a history voting in one of the last three party primaries and indicate that they will be voting in the 2022 Democratic primary). O’Rourke was the choice of 93% of likely Democratic party primary voters, with the small remainder divided among four other candidates.
|Inocencio "Inno" Barrientez||2%|
The other Democratic match-ups are dominated by uncertainty, with 57% and 52% of likely Democratic primary voters initially unable to say, when asked, who they will be supporting in their party primaries for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, respectively. When forced to make a choice and added to the minority who could when initially asked, Mike Collier received 47% of the vote in the race for the Lieutenant Governor nomination, to 27% for Representative Michelle Beckley, and 23% for Carla Brailey. In the attorney general contest, once forced to make a choice, 41% of likely Democratic primary voters say they would support Rochelle Garza, followed by Joe Jaworski with 24% support, Lee Merritt with 15%, Mike Fields with 11%, and S “T-Bone” Raynor with 6%. Both nominating contests look in danger of going to run-offs, giving those Democrats who eventually emerge a delayed start in the respective campaigns against the eventual GOP nominees.
A large majority of Texans report feeling the effects of inflation: 88% said that based on their recent experience, prices for goods and services have “generally increased.” Among that group, slightly more than half, 51%, reported that rising prices have had a “major impact” on their household financial situation, while 41% reported a “minor impact.” Only 7% said they felt no impact from rising prices.
Asked about their family’s economic situation compared to a year ago, 21% reported being somewhat (16%) or a lot (5%) better off; 38% said they were somewhat (25%) or a lot (13%) worse off; and 39% said they were doing about the same.
For a more expansive look at trends in Texans’ views of the economy, see our page that tracks economic assessments over the life of our Texas polling.
Two new items assess views on recent issues that have emerged related to the content of public school education in Texas: The influence of parents over what their children are taught in public schools, and efforts to remove books deemed objectionable by their critics from public school libraries. In both cases, these results are likely jumping off points in our tracking of these attitudes, and we should expect some movement in voters’ opinions as Republican candidates continue to message on public education issues where they feel they have an advantage. These issues currently don’t look to be roiling the public at large the way it is some elected officials and some parents.
A question about the broad issue of parental influence over what children are taught in Texas public school classrooms, the emerging umbrella concept for more specific targeting of educational content in school such as library books and social science and history curricula, reveals closely divided opinions as these familiar debates receive renewed attention from activists and news media.
|Don't know/No opinion||15%|
|Don't know/No opinion||15%||16%||11%|
Results suggest that these issues resonate most in the quarters of the likely Republican primary electorate, though the larger universe of Republican partisans is divided, particularly on the issue of removing books from school libraries. Overall, only 29% supported “recent efforts by some Texas elected officials, parents, and parent groups to remove books from public school libraries,” while 62% opposed them (47% strongly), and 9% said they didn’t know. Among Republicans, 41% supported such efforts and 44% opposed them (28% strongly). But thinking about the upcoming primary, among those who self-identify as “extremely conservative,” 50% support (35% strongly), and 37% oppose (27% strongly) these efforts. Significant majorities of Democrats (78%) and independents (69%) oppose these efforts.
|Don't know/No opinion||9%|
|Don't know/No opinion||4%||9%||13%|
|Category||Lean conservative||Somewhat conservative||Extremely conservative|
|Don't know/No opinion||14%||9%||13%|
We also checked back in on an issue that might be considered to occupy the leading edge of the current conservative offensive on public education: efforts to limit the teaching of the history of racism in public schools. As attacks on the teaching of an amorphously and expansively-defined “critical race theory” remains a key theme in GOP primary races and, as things currently stand, likely to appear in targeted campaign communications throughout the Fall, 50% of Texans oppose efforts to limit the use of teaching materials that emphasize the role of racism, compared to 37% who say they support such efforts.
|Don't know/No opinion||14%|
At the intersection of public education, public health, and the pandemic, we also asked Texans about mask requirements in public schools. Here, we find nearly two-thirds of Texans, 61%, in support of requiring students and staff to wear masks while in school, including 92% of Democrats, but also nearly one-third of Republicans, 33% — largely statistically unchanged from preferences in October 2021 polling. However, when it comes to requiring vaccinations or frequent testing for staff or students, opinion is far more mixed, with slight majorities in favor of vaccine/testing requirements for staff (53%) and students (50%), but almost as much opposition (41% and 44%, respectively).
|Don't know/No opinion||3%|
|Don't know/No opinion||2%||4%||3%|
|Don't know/No opinion||6%|
|Don't know/No opinion||7%||6%||2%|
Overall, amidst both the pandemic and a new wave of public issues focused on schools, Texans' assessments of the quality of public school education in Texas has changed very little in 8 years of polling this item. In the latest survey, 7% of Texas voters judged the state’s public schools to be excellent; 41%, good; 30%, not very good; and 10% terrible. With exception of only one data point, responses have only varied within a range of 4 percentage points in each category across seven polls since 2013. While public education has intermittently been the subject of intense attention from elected officials and interest groups, Texans’ assessments have changed very little, remaining, on balance, barely positive, and only mildly so.
|Not very good||30%|
|Don't know/No opinion||11%|
Abortion. With the U.S. Supreme Court expected to issue a landmark ruling on Roe v. Wade, which currently guarantees abortion rights, 34% of Texas voters support automatically banning all abortions in Texas if Roe is overturned; but a majority, 53%, oppose such a ban. The Texas Legislature, in their most recent legislative session, passed a “trigger” bill implementing an automatic ban in the event the high court overturns Roe. The response to the bill among a sizable share of Republicans, in conjunction with other legislation designed to severely curtail abortion access in Texas, triggered speculation that despite majority Republican support for limiting access to or even banning abortion, the party leadership and the powerful anti-abortion groups active in GOP politics might have pushed the party too far on the issue.
|Don't know/No opinion||13%|
|Don't know/No opinion||11%||14%||10%|
Multiple items asked over a decade of UT polling finds only a small minority of Texas voters opposed to legal abortion access in the case of endangerment to the mother’s health, or if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, exceptions the trigger law does not make. In fact, February polling found a plurality of Texans, 43%, saying that abortion laws in Texas should be made less strict. This was the highest share of Texas voters seeking a loosening of the state’s abortion laws in five measures going back to 2013. This item also records the lowest share of GOP support for making abortion laws more strict, 35%, in the time series, and the first time GOP support for stricter laws has been less than a majority of all GOP voters.
|Left as they are now||23%|
|Don't know/No opinion||12%|
|Left as they are now||11%||25%||34%|
|Don't know/No opinion||10%||14%||9%|
Electric grid reliability. A large majority of Texans continue to lack confidence in the measures passed by the Texas Legislature to improve the reliability of Texas’ electric grid. To the extent that the grid continues to buzz as a campaign issue, the overall crisis in confidence lessened only marginally between June 2021 and the latest poll. Republican voters’ confidence is somewhat less shaky than Democrats’, but not by a lot. Only 5% and 6% of Democrats and Republicans, respectively, say that they’re extremely confident in the actions of the legislature to prevent future disruptions in utility services. The plurality of Republicans, 41%, say that they are “somewhat confident” in the actions of the legislature, largely unchanged from prior measures.
|Not very confident||26%||23%||19%|
|Not at all confident||37%||28%||6%|
|Don't know/No opinion||9%||13%||12%|
Border security. Both the Texas Legislature and Gov. Abbott pushed historic increases in border security spending through the process in 2021, yet a plurality of Texas voters, 39%, continue to say that the state spends too little on border security (a consistent result going back at least to February 2019, the first time our question on the subject was included on a UT poll). Also in line with previous results, 23% said the state was spending too much, while an identical 23% said Texas was spending “about the right amount"; 15% said they didn’t know or had no opinion.
|About the right amount||23%|
|Don't know/No opinion||15%|
There are partisan differences in views on border security spending that provide context for the likely presence of border security issues during the 2022 campaign. A significant majority of Republicans, 62%, say the state spends too little, and with another 25% who say Texas spends “about the right amount,” it’s unlikely that Republicans on the ballot will be facing any notable election-year complaints on the issue. Only 5% say the state spends too much. Democratic attitudes, not surprisingly, differ from those of Republicans, but show less consensus.
|About the right amount||23%||17%||25%|
|Don't know/No opinion||18%||19%||8%|
There is a much more significant partisan difference in the salience assigned to border security (and immigration) as problems facing the state. Among Republicans, 36% say border security is the most important problem facing the state, with another 22% citing immigration. Among Democrats, the corresponding shares are miniscule: 2% and 1%, respectively. The opinions of independents, destined to receive renewed attention after the primary elections, are in between but probably as a group closer to Republicans than independents (18% cite border security, 10% immigration).
Gun laws. While a plurality of Texans, 43%, expressed support for stricter gun control laws, that was the smallest share of Texans to support increasing regulation of guns since November 2015 (41%); 34% supported leaving laws as they are now, and 16% wanted them less strict. Support for the status quo increased 6 points from October 2019, while support for stricter measures has decreased 8 points in the same period. The peak of support for increasing the strictness of gun laws expressed in this measure was in October 2017 (52%), shortly after a September 2017 mass shooting in Plano, and shortly before the October 2017 mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs. In the intervening period, the legislature passed “open carry” legislation in 2019, and removed licensing and training requirements for most adults in 2021.
|Left as they are now||12%||29%||57%|
|Don't know/No opinion||6%||9%||6%|
Voting rules. Texas voters were split in their assessment of the direction of Texas’ voting laws in the wake of GOP efforts throughout 2021 to fortify the voting process against perceived, but unverified or documented, voter fraud. Overall, 30% wanted the laws made more strict, 29% less strict, and 31% left as they are now. Potentially in reaction to GOP efforts, only 46% of GOP voters said the laws should be made more strict, the same as in February 2021 at the beginning of the legislative session, but down significantly from the intervening months when much of the GOP’s, and state’s, focus was turned to election legislation. During that period, 60% of Republicans wanted the laws made more strict in June and October of 2021, and during the height of the discussion captured in August polling, GOP support for stricter laws peaked at 67%.
|Left as they are now||20%||44%||39%|
|Don't know/No opinion||9%||8%||6%|
One aspect of the new voting legislation is the requirement that voters who want to vote by mail submit either their driver’s license or partial social security number with their application, whichever of the two they used when they registered to vote. This has, according to news reports, contributed to the large increase in the share of mail in ballot applications being rejected this primary season. The UT poll asked registered voters whether they registered to vote in Texas with their driver’s license, social security number, or if they don’t remember (a concern raised during hearings). In this polling, slightly more than a quarter of voters, 26%, say they don’t recall or remember, among them slightly higher shares of voters over the age of 65 (30%).
|Driver's license number (dl)||58%|
|Social security number (ssn)||16%|
|Don't know/Don't remember||26%|
Democracy in the U.S. The poll asked Texas voters, “How well is democracy working in the United States today?” The responses convey pervasive misgivings about how the Constitutional system is working in the country. In numbers that changed little from when we asked the same question in the August 2021 UT/Texas Politics Project Poll, only 11% responded either “extremely-” (3%) or “very well” (8%). Nearly 3 in 10 said democracy was going “very-” or “extremely poorly.” The plurality were in a tepid middle, choosing either “somewhat well” (23%) or “somewhat poorly” (26%). Thinking about the results in binary terms, 36% of Texas voters chose one of the “going well” options, 55% chose one of the “going poorly” options. No matter how you slice it, most Texans seem to think democracy in the U.S. is broken.
|Don't know/No opinion||8%|
While there is some of the partisan coloring one might expect with one party controlling the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, there is more than residual negativity among Democrats – nearly half of Democrats, 48%, think things are going poorly to some degree, compared to 65% of Republicans.
|Don't know/No opinion||7%||6%||6%|
Democracy in Texas. Texans' views of how democracy is working in their state, while clearly more positive than their assessments of the national political system, also convey widespread reservations. Only 22% say democracy is working “extremely” (6%) or “very” (16%) well, while 10% say “very poorly” and 16% “extremely poorly.” As with their assessments of democracy at the national level, there is a comparatively fat, mediocre middle: 27% say somewhat well, 16% say somewhat poorly, and 9% opt for “don’t know” or “no opinion.”
|Don't know/No opinion||9%|
Legitimacy of presidential election result. A slight majority of Texas, 53%, say that Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election, with 36% saying that he did not, and 11% saying that they are unsure of the legitimacy of his election. While 91% of Democrats believe in the legitimacy of Biden’s victory, 67% of Republicans disagree.
View of January 6th. Perceptions of what happened on January 6th, 2021 remain sharply divided, with 82% of Democrats agreeing with the statement, “Protesters who entered the United States Capitol last January 6th were attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election,” and 62% of Republicans disagreeing.
|Don't know/No opinion||11%||14%||13%|
Political violence in the future. In a rare showing of partisan agreement, majorities of both Democrats (59%) and Republicans (53%) expect there to be more political violence in the future in the United States. Overall, 54% of Texans said that they expected more violence, 20% said that they expected the same amount of violence, and only 10% said that they expect less violence in the future.
|More political violence||59%||50%||53%|
|Less political violence||13%||8%||8%|
|The same amount of political violence||14%||28%||25%|
|Don't know/No opinion||14%||14%||14%|
President Joe Biden. Asked to rate President Biden’s overall job performance, 36% approved and 52% disapproved. Among partisans, 76% of Democrats approved of Biden’s job performance, while 9% disapproved. Republican views mirrored those of Democrats: only 6% approved, while 91% disapproved. Among independents with no tendency to lean toward either party, 17% approved of Biden’s job performance while a majority, 63%, disapproved.
|Neither approve nor disapprove||10%|
Biden issue approvals. Biden finds himself underwater on each of the eight issue areas where the poll sought issue specific job approval, including his handling of the coronavirus, transportation and infrastructure, the economy, voting and elections, foreign policy, climate change, crime and public safety, and immigration and border security. Biden’s best numbers came in response to his handling of COVID, in which he finds 40% approval against 48% disapproval. His worst ratings came in response to his handling of immigration and border security, where 57% of Texas voters registered disapproval compared to only 25% approving. Biden still enjoys majority approval among Democrats for each of the issue areas, but net-negative approval from most other groups in the electorate.
Gov. Greg Abbott. Abbott finds himself above water for the first time since March 2021 UT polling, with 44% of Texas voters approving of Abbott’s job performance in February and 42% disapproving. Among Republicans, 74% approve of the governor’s job performance, 75% of Democrats disapprove.
|Neither approve nor disapprove||12%|
Abbott issue approvals. Of the eight issue areas in which we asked Texas voters to rate Greg Abbott’s job performance (including the economy, crime and public safety, immigration and border security, voting and elections, the coronavirus, public education, and the electric grid), the governor receives neither majority approval nor majority disapproval on any single issue. Abbott breaks even on public education, with 39% approving and 39% disapproving, and finds himself in net positive territory on the remaining issues ranging from +4 net approval on the coronavirus to +13 on the economy. His lowest rating comes in response to the electric grid, where the governor finds himself underwater, with 33% approving and 45% disapproving.
Other Texas Ratings.
(Click on each to see graphics of topline result and crosstabs.)
For a more extensive look at trends in Texans’ assessments of the job performance of elected officials and for approval ratings of various figures , see our page that tracks job approvals and economic assessments over the life of Texas Politics Project statewide polling.