After a surplus-fueled session, Texans give mixed reviews to legislative policy making


After an active legislative session fueled by a historic budget surplus, the latest University of Texas/Texas Politics project poll finds Texans giving legislative policy efforts mixed reviews amidst complex cross-currents in attitudes about policies, politics, and government.

Texas voters support many of the specific policy proposals discussed and passed by lawmakers during the 88th Legislature. But they express more skepticism when asked for their assessments of legislative action in policy areas deemed important in polling and by political leaders, and convey little confidence in the effectiveness of the state leadership’s efforts in major policy areas, including the reliability of the grid and the state’s water supply, the safety of Texas’ public schools, and security at the Texas-Mexico border.

When asked in general terms about their confidence in legislative efforts to address areas deemed critical by voters in Texas Politics Project polling conducted earlier in the session, most Texas voters lacked confidence in lawmakers’ efforts.

  • Only 18% say they are very confident (12%) or extremely confident (6%) that the legislature increased the reliability of the state’s electricity grid. A much larger share, 47%, were either not very confident (21%) or not confident at all (26%). The legislature passed major legislation reshaping the electricity market in the state while dedicating up to $1 Billion per year to efforts to increase the state’s “dispatchable” (the buzzword of these discussions) energy in the future.
  • Asked about efforts to increase the reliability of the state’s water supply amidst increasingly persistent water service interruptions and longer-term concerns about the availability of water in a fast growing state, 19% were either very (12%) or extremely (7%) confident, while 38% were either not very confident (20%) or not confident (18%) in the legislature’s efforts to shore up the water supply.
  • Similar to evaluations of grid reliability, only 18% of Texans were either very (12%) or extremely (6%) confident that the legislature has “improved the safety of Texas’s public schools,” while nearly half (48%) were either not very (19%) or not at all (29%) confident.
  • While on one of the most consistently important issues to Texas’ Republican voters, only 19% of voters were either very (13%) or extremely (6%) confident that lawmakers had “improved security along the Texas-Mexico border” - including only 25% of Republicans.

Views of legislative efforts in a range of policy areas state leaders, legislators, and the public paid attention to were decidedly mixed: legislative efforts failed to earn approval from a majority of Texas voters in any of the 16 policy areas assessed in the poll, and only three policy areas found more voters approving than disapproving of the job performance of state leaders and the legislature (i.e. net positive evaluations).

Voters granted the legislature and the state leadership net-positive assessments in three areas, though with only plurality support and large shares of uncertain or neutral assessments.

Voters’ evaluations of the government’s handling of the economy saw the most positive responses, with 42% approving and 29% disapproving (+13). Legislative handling of voting and election laws saw approval from 41% of Texas voters and disapproval from 33% (+8), though with significant partisan differences, including the approval of 61% of Republicans to match the disapproval of 57% of Democrats. Efforts to shore up the water supply found approval from 37% of Texas voters and disapproval from 24% (+13), though this includes a reasonably large share of voters who held no opinion about this foundational state infrastructure.

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The Texas economy42%
Election & voting laws41%
Immigration / border security38%
Abortion policy38%
Water supply reliability37%
Crime / public safety36%
School safety35%
K-12 public education30%
Gun violence30%
Electricity grid reliability28%
Higher education28%
Political corruption / ethics28%
Property taxes25%
Mental health services25%

In seven issue areas, the poll found Texans closely divided in their evaluations, though with single-digit, net-negative ratings.

Issues that saw ambivalence from Texas voters included state efforts to address opioids and the fentanyl crisis (30% approve; 31% disapprove; net -1); crime and public safety (36% approve; 38% disapprove; net -2); higher education policy (28% approve; 32% disapprove; net -4); and immigration and border security (38% approve; 43% disapprove; net -5). Issues that saw slightly more negative net evaluations (-7) included abortion policy (38% approve; 45% disapprove); school safety (35% approve; 42% disapprove); and healthcare (31% approve; 38% disapprove). 

The six issues that saw the largest net negative ratings included issues that were major, public priorities of the legislature, including K-12 public education (30% approve; 41% disapprove; net -11); mental health services (25% approve; 38% disapprove; net -13); political corruption and ethics (28% approve; 42% disapprove; net -14); the electric grid (28% approve; 44% disapprove; net -16); gun violence (30% approve; 47% disapprove; net -17); and property taxes (25% approve; 45% disapprove; net -20). A number of these issues, in particular, property taxes, have continued to stymie the legislature amidst increasingly public political conflict among the state’s leadership and the two chambers of the legislature.

The poll also probed support for specific policies discussed during the legislative session. All of the 16 items in this battery of questions received either plurality or majority support. For the most part, issues with smaller shares of support reflect increased levels of disagreement between partisan groups. 

The issues that received the lowest levels of aggregate support included those subjects that saw substantial debate during the regular session. 

The following proposals, asked about in general terms, were all passed and will become law (some in modified form). The first three items listed below received the lowest levels of support in the battery of policy items (to view the results to these items in more detail, including among different groups in the electorate, click on the bolded links below):

The following proposals did not pass during the regular legislative session, though Gov. Abbott has promised “several” special sessions in order to complete the work he considers left undone during the regular session. The first three items on the list were among the four items with the highest shares of support in the policy battery of questions.

The establishment of an ESA or school choice program was the subject of sustained advocacy efforts during the session by supporters including Gov. Abbott, who has promised to put the issue on the agenda of a future special session.

The latest University of Texas / Texas Politics Project Poll was conducted June 2-12 among 1,200 self-identified registered voters in Texas. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 2.83%. See the Texas Politics Project Data Archive for a full methodological statement on this, and all other, University of Texas / Texas Politics Project Polls.

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Keywords: 88th legislature