Between the election and the looming session, December UT/Texas Politics Project poll finds Texans skeptical of state government

Poll Summary (pdf)
Crosstabs (pdf)

The Texas Politics Project has released the results of the first University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll conducted in the interim between the general election and the kickoff of a Texas legislative session. The poll included a variety of questions about institutions, groups, and actors in Texas as the newly-elected 88th Texas Legislature considers their agenda at a critical time in the state’s history, while also continuing to track trends in Texans’ views of the job performance of elected officials and important problems and issues in the state and country. 

With the Texas Legislature set to convene on January 10 in the wake of a contentious election that decisively reinstalled GOP statewide officials and legislative majorities for the sixth consecutive election, the poll finds a significant increase in Texans’ skepticism about the responsiveness of state government. The plurality of Texans, 46%, said that the state government in Austin “mostly ignores” the needs of Texas residents, while 37% said that it “mostly addresses” Texans’ needs. When asked the same question five years ago in October 2017 UT polling, the responses were inverted: 49% said the state government mostly addresses the needs of Texans, while 38% said that it mostly ignores their needs. 

The latest poll was conducted December 2-11, 2022, among 1,200 self-declared registered voters in Texas. It has a margin of sampling error of +/- 2.89 percentage points for the full sample. The survey was designed to look at broad attitudes likely to shape public responses prior to the emergence of more concrete policy proposals during the legislative process in 2023. The poll surveyed attitudes on other subjects as well, including Texans’ views of other countries, media use, and national identity. As always, the polling summary documents and the Texas Politics Project graphics archive provide comprehensive results. The sections below look at some of the major areas covered in the poll, focusing on the political context of the upcoming legislative session.

State government responsiveness and performance. Questions exploring Texans’ views of state government revealed a steep decline in Texans’ assessments of responsiveness and fiscal responsibility since 2017.

Please tell me which one better describes your opinions about state government in Austin...
(December 2022 University of Texas / Texas Politics Project Poll)
  December 2022 October 2017
  Mostly addresses the needs of Texans Mostly ignores the needs of Texans Mostly addresses the needs of Texans Mostly ignores the needs of Texans
Overall 37% 46% 49% 38%
Democrats 17% 69% 22% 67%
Independents 37% 36% 42% 38%
Republicans 59% 26% 77% 12%
  • Only 31% of Texas voters said that the state is careful with people’s tax dollars, down from 44% when last asked in October 2017. The plurality, 48%, said the state is mostly careless, up 11 points since 2017. Republican voters shifted the most over the time period, with 46% saying the state is careful with people’s tax dollars, down 20 points from the 66% who said the same in 2017.
  • In response to the item asking whether state government mostly addressed or mostly ignored the needs of Texas residents, Democrats were, not surprisingly, more critical of state government than Republicans, whose elected officials have occupied all executive offices in the state and held majorities in both houses of the Legislature since 2003: 69% of Democrats said the state mostly ignores needs, compared to 26% of Republicans. Among Republicans, however, the share saying the state is addressing the needs of Texans also decreased sharply, from 77% in 2017 to 59% in the latest poll. 
Please tell me which one better describes your opinions about state government in Austin...
(December 2022 University of Texas / Texas Politics Project Poll)
  December 2022 October 2017
  Mostly careful with people's tax dollars

Mostly careless with people's tax dollars

Mostly careful with people's tax dollars

Mostly careless with people's tax dollars
Overall 31% 48% 44% 37%
Democrats 19% 63% 23% 56%
Independents 24% 49% 40% 40%
Republicans 46% 36% 66% 20%

Views of Texas political leaders. While the poll revealed skepticism about the responsiveness of state government overall, job approval ratings for incumbent Republicans generally improved with the intensely partisan election season ending with GOP victories across the board.

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PollApproveDisapproveNeither/Don't Know
November 201542%29%28%
February 201641%29%30%
June 201642%31%27%
October 201642%33%25%
February 201745%33%23%
June 201745%38%16%
October 201748%33%19%
February 201846%31%23%
June 201847%36%18%
October 201852%32%17%
February 201951%32%17%
June 201951%31%18%
October 201952%28%21%
February 202048%34%18%
April 202056%32%13%
June 202049%39%13%
October 202047%40%14%
February 202146%39%15%
March 202145%43%11%
April 202143%45%13%
June 202144%44%11%
August 202141%50%9%
October 202143%48%10%
February 202244%42%15%
April 202247%41%13%
June 202243%46%12%
August 202246%44%10%
October 202247%44%9%
December 202249%41%8%

  • Gov. Greg Abbott’s job approval rating hit a high for 2022 in the wake of his reelection: 49% approved of the job he is doing as governor, while 41% disapproved. This was Abbott’s highest job approval rating since he last hit 49% in June 2020. Approval of Abbott’s job performance increased slightly among non-Republicans compared to October polling, including 5-point increases among both Democrats (from 9% to 14%) and independents (40% to 45%). Republican approval was stable, registering a statistically indistinguishable improvement from 86% to 87%.
  • Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s job approval ratings demonstrated a similar upswing as he leads the Texas Senate into the legislative session: 43% approved, while 36% disapproved of his job performance, the first time the Lt. Governor’s job approval ratings have registered net positive since February, 2021.
  • Consistent with the position’s lack of a statewide electoral constituency, about half of Texans expressed no view of Speaker of the House Dade Phelan’s job performance. Those voters with a view were evenly split: 24% approved and 24% disapproved.
  • President Joe Biden’s job performance evaluation also registered a small uptick in the aftermath of the 2022 elections, though Texans’ evaluations of Biden remain in negative territory: 42% approved and 50% disapproved. This was Biden’s most positive overall rating since June 2021.

Views of institutions and social actors. Among a group of prominent institutions in Texas life, only local businesses were viewed favorably by a broad majority of Texans, with other institutions earning mostly divided views and none receiving positive assessments from more than half of the poll respondents.

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categoryTotal
Local businesses in your area75%
Churches & faith organizations50%
Universities & colleges45%
Public schools (K-12)44%
Major companies / corporations based in the U.S.41%
Labor unions40%
Major companies / corporations based outside the U.S.16%

  • When asked their views of seven different institutions and social actors, “local businesses in your area” were viewed most favorably. Three-quarters (75%) viewed local business favorably, while only 6% viewed them unfavorable.
  • Corporations fared less well among Texans, especially foreign firms: 41% viewed U.S.-based corporations favorably, while 27% expressed unfavorable views. Foreign corporations received the least favorable ratings among the entities by a wide margin: only 16% viewed them favorably, while 42% viewed them unfavorably, the highest negative assessment from among the entities tested.
  • The other entities assessed included churches and faith organizations (50% approve/24% disapprove); universities and colleges (45%/34%); public schools (K-12) (44%/31%); and labor unions (40%/30%). 
  • Looking at the intensity of favorable assessments, no group earned “very favorable” views among more than 25% of respondents. 

Corporate strategy and politics. As national and state level Republicans continue to criticize corporate business strategies related to social and political issues, the survey asked Texans to assess whether corporations and businesses were doing too much, too little, or the right amount in response to six issue areas: climate change, racial discrimination, women’s rights, abortion access, democracy and voting rights, and LGTBQ issues.

  • The issue on which the largest share of Texans judged business as doing “too little” was climate change (44%), though the 29% saying they were doing “too much” earned the second highest share of “too much” responses.
  • The issue on which the highest share said businesses were doing too much was lesbian, gay, transgender, bi-sexual, and/or queer (LGTBQ) rights: 36% said corporations were doing “too much,” while 29% said “too little,” the lowest share saying “too little” among the issues tested.
  • Overall, more Texans said corporations were doing “too little” than said they were doing too much” or “the right amount” on every issue in the battery except LGTBQ issues.
Do you think businesses and corporations are doing too much, too little, or about the right amount responding to each of the following...
(December 2022 University of Texas / Texas Politics Project Poll)
  Overall Democrats Republicans
  Too much About the right amount Too little

Too much

About the right amount Too little Too much About the right amount Too little
Climate change 29% 15% 44% 5% 12% 76% 53% 18% 17%
Racial discrimination 26% 23% 39% 7% 15% 69% 46% 30% 12%
Women's rights 21% 27% 40% 7% 16% 69% 37% 37% 14%
Abortion access 27% 16% 39% 7% 13% 66% 49% 19% 14%
Democracy / voting rights 20% 25% 39% 6% 20% 64% 32% 30% 19%
LGBTQ rights 36% 19% 29% 11% 20% 53% 62% 17% 8%
  • As the discussion of the future of state-sponsored incentives continues in the wake of the discontinuation of the state’s “chapter 313” program by the legislature in 2021, 46% said that state and local governments should offer economic benefits or incentives like reduced property taxes to attract business investments, while 31% opposed such efforts — largely unchanged from polling conducted in June 2021.

Climate change attitudes. Most Texans agree that climate change is happening, though large disagreements still emerge about current state and federal responsiveness to its threat.

  • While 62% of Texans continue to say that climate change is happening, nearly a quarter (23%) disagree, with the remaining 15% unsure. Democrats are nearly unanimous in their acceptance of climate change; the plurality of Texas Republicans, 43%, continue to deny that climate change is happening, compared to 36% who agree with the scientific consensus.
  • Pluralities of Texans say that the federal (38%) and state (41%) government are doing too little to address climate change.

Underlying attitudes on potential legislative issues. The poll also looked at some of the broad attitudes likely to shape public responses as concrete proposals emerge during the legislative process in 2023.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Made more strict19%28%18%
Made less strict43%28%33%
Left alone14%16%32%
Don't know/No opinion24%29%18%

  • Immigration and border security once again led the list of the most important problems facing Texas: 30% cited one or the other as most important, composed in large part by 60% of Texas Republicans. Among Democrats, the top response was “political corruption/leadership”, cited by 22%.
  • Texans’ views of marijuana legalization remain, on the whole, favorable toward some degree of legalization: 72% of Texas voters supported reducing the punishment for possession of small amounts of marijuana to a citation and a fine, while only 17% said they would endorse a complete prohibition on marijuana usage, including for medicinal purposes. Since 2017, no more than 20% of Texans have expressed support for the total criminalization of marijuana possession.
  • Asked about the laws governing gambling in Texas, 35% said that Texas’ gambling laws should be made less strict, 20% said more strict, and 22% said they should be left alone.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Texas voters, 65%, expressed support for expanding Medicaid eligibility, largely unchanged from when the question was last asked in June 2021 UT polling. Republican voters were split in their views of Medicaid expansion, with 42% supportive and 43% opposed, while 91% of Democrats supported expansion, including 71% who expressed strong support.

General mood indicators. Texans' broad assessments of conditions in the state and country – such as their views of the economy and the trajectory of each – were less negative in December than earlier in the year. However, they remain on the negative side of longer term trends evident in repeated items on the UT poll. 

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PollRight DirectionWrong Track
October 200938%39%
February 201043%37%
May 201045%38%
September 201043%38%
October 201045%37%
February 201141%41%
May 201136%48%
October 201139%43%
February 201243%38%
May 201238%42%
October 201243%34%
February 201345%39%
June 201350%32%
October 201342%39%
February 201445%35%
June 201449%33%
October 201448%35%
February 201550%30%
June 201550%32%
November 201545%36%
February 201642%37%
June 201641%38%
October 201642%40%
February 201746%36%
June 201743%40%
October 201743%40%
February 201848%36%
June 201846%37%
October 201850%35%
February 201949%35%
June 201949%34%
October 201947%35%
February 202049%37%
April 202043%43%
June 202041%47%
October 202041%44%
February 202139%41%
March 202141%46%
April 202142%42%
June 202141%43%
August 202135%52%
October 202140%48%
February 202240%46%
April 202239%51%
June 202231%59%
August 202236%52%
October 202237%50%
December 202239%46%

  • Texans' views of the trajectory of Texas marginally improved since the last UT/TXP Poll in October 2022: 46% think the state is on the wrong track, while 39% said the state is headed in the right direction. This is the first time the “wrong track” share dipped below 50% since February of this year. Views of the state’s trajectory have not been net-positive since February 2020. 
  • Pluralities of Texans still judge both the state and national economies as worse off than one year ago: 42% said the Texas economy was worse than a year ago, while only 16% thought it was better. Views of the U.S. economy remained comparatively worse: 59% said the national economy was worse, though a fifth (20%) said it was better.

Checking in on views of democracy. With the 2022 elections in the books after significant changes to election procedures implemented during the 2021 Legislative session, Texans’ views of the accuracy of election results, both in the U.S. and in Texas, remain largely unchanged.

  • 32% of Texans continue to say that Joe Biden didn’t legitimately win the 2020 election, the lowest share of Texans taking this position since the question was first asked in February of 2022. Among Republicans, only 24% say that the president was legitimately elected, 4 points higher than three previous assessments in October, August, and June of this year.
  • Sixty-percent of Texans said that national election results are at least somewhat accurate, with 78% saying the same of Texas election results.

The latest poll combined questions written specifically for this poll with several questions that have appeared on previous polls. The summary document for the poll supplements latest results with prior results when available. The search tool at the Texas Politics Project enables users to conduct extensive searches using keywords as well as tags for names, subjects, and dates.

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