New University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll finds little confidence in the legislature’s efforts to address key issues

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After a regular legislative session that found lawmakers attempting to use a historic budget surplus to address major fiscal issues and infrastructure needs while also pushing some cultural hot buttons, the latest University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll found Texas voters with low expectations of the impact of their actions, and dim views of the legislature’s responsiveness.

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. Fewer than one in five voters was willing to say they were ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ confident that the legislature had increased the reliability of the electric grid or the water supply, improved the safety of Texas’ public schools, or improved security along the Texas-Mexico border.

In a more general assessment that also illustrates Texans’ low expectations of the legislature’s efforts, asked at the conclusion of the regular session whether the legislature had “made the lives of Texans like you better, made the lives of Texans like you worse, or had no impact on the lives of Texans like you,” only 5% said the legislature had made their lives “a lot better,” joined by 24% who agreed that lawmakers had made their lives “somewhat better.” The plurality, 26%, expected no impact, while 3 in 10 expected the legislature to have made Texans’ lives “somewhat worse” (16%) or “a lot worse (14%). 

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categoryTotal
Made a lot better5%
Made somewhat better24%
Made no impact26%
Made somewhat worse16%
Made a lot worse14%
Don't know/No opinion15%

At the same time, nearly half of Texans (49%) said that Texas’ state government “mostly ignores the needs of Texas residents” — up nearly 20-points since the question was first asked in October of 2012 — while only a little more than a third (36%) said that state government mostly addresses Texans’ needs — down from 54% in October 2012.

As the Texas legislature remains riven by intra-party conflict over property tax reform during the current (first called) special session, Texas voters expressed disapproval of legislative efforts on key issues flagged as priorities by the state’s leadership and, in some cases, by voters themselves, according to results in the latest UT/TXPP Poll. The most striking examples of public skepticism toward recent and current legislative efforts were in response to issues voters identified as urgent in Texas Politics Project Polling conducted earlier in the legislative session: property tax reduction, the reliability of the electric grid, and school safety.

THE PROPERTY TAX IMPASSE

Texans largely disapproved when asked to rate legislative efforts to reduce property taxes, with 45% disapproving and only 25% expressing approval. While all three of the state’s major elected leaders – the governor, lieutenant governor, and Speaker of the House – publicly prioritized cutting property taxes prior to the session, and subsequently committed large shares of the state’s budget surplus to that effort, the House and Senate failed to agree on an approach to achieving those cuts, leading to an impasse that has continued into a special session called by Gov. Abbott to address the issue. This state of affairs appears to be informing public evaluations.

Voters’ evaluations of state leaders’ attempts to reduce property taxes saw the lowest total approval rating from among 16 issue areas voters were asked to evaluate, as well as the lowest net approval rating (-20).

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categoryTotal
The Texas economy42%
Election & voting laws41%
Immigration / border security38%
Abortion policy38%
Water supply reliability37%
Crime / public safety36%
School safety35%
Healthcare31%
K-12 public education30%
Gun violence30%
Opioids30%
Electricity grid reliability28%
Higher education28%
Political corruption / ethics28%
Property taxes25%
Mental health services25%

Without reference to the legislature’s actions, or inaction, on property tax reduction, the plurality of Texans, 42%, said that they expected the property taxes that Texans pay to increase, while only 23% expect them to decrease; 21% expect them to say the same, while the remaining 14% had no opinion.

Bipartisanship apparently feeds on low expectations, at least in this case: 48% of Democrats and 41% of Republicans expected property tax bills to increase, while only 21% and 22%, respectively, expected them to decrease.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Increase48%35%41%
Decrease16%27%27%
Stay the same21%19%22%
Don't know/No opinion15%20%10%

TEXANS LACK OF CONFIDENCE IN EFFORTS TO IMPROVE GRID RELIABILITY

On another key issue hovering over state politics since Winter Storm Uri knocked out power for millions of Texans in 2021, 44% of voters said that they disapproved of how state leaders and the legislature have handled the reliability of the electricity grid, while only 28% approved; 20% offered neutral evaluations and 8% had no opinion.

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categoryTotal
Extremely confident6%
Very confident12%
Somewhat confident22%
Not very confident21%
Not confident26%
Don't know/No opinion13%

As the state endures a brutal summer heatwave even by Texas standards, only 18% of voters said that they are ‘very confident’ (12%) or ‘extremely confident’ (6%) that the actions taken by the legislature will increase the reliability of the state’s electric grid. A much larger share, 47%, were either ‘not very confident’ (21%) or ‘not confident at all’ (26%).

Asked to assess the likely impact of legislative efforts to improve the reliability of the grid on the prices that customers pay for electricity in Texas, the plurality, 48%, said that they expected higher electricity prices, 17% expected no impact, while only 16% thought that legislative efforts might result in lower prices for consumers (19% held no opinion).

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categoryTotal
Higher electricity prices for consumers48%
Lower electricity prices for consumers16%
No impact on electricity prices for consumers17%
Don't know/No opinion19%

In addition to Texans’ views of the grid and property taxes, the June poll assessed Texans’ attitudes in multiple policy areas identified as priority issues by the state’s Republican elected officials as well as by voters in Texas Politics Project polling conducted early in the legislative session. The poll also gauged Texans’ support for several specific legislative proposals. A separate post breaks down these results in more detail.

PUBLIC EDUCATION ATTITUDES, PUBLIC EDUCATION POLICY

Amidst a session that saw significant efforts to pass legislation impacting almost every aspect of Texas’ public education system, two areas that voters prioritized for the legislature in public education according to February UT/TXPP polling, school safety and teacher pay, went largely unaddressed, given the responses of Texas voters.

While the vast majority of voters, 76%, expressed support for a policy that would require at least one armed guard on each public school campus during school hours (including 91% of Republicans and a majority, 59%, of Democrats), only 18% said that they were either ‘extremely’ (6%) or ‘very confident’ (12%) that legislative efforts had increased the safety of Texas’ public schools compared to 48% who said they were either ‘not very’ (19%) or ‘not confident’ (29%).

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categoryTotal
Extremely confident6%
Very confident12%
Somewhat confident25%
Not very confident19%
Not confident29%
Don't know/No opinion10%

And while voters’ prioritized public school teacher pay and retention when asked for their public education priorities for the Texas Legislature in February 2023 UT/TXPP polling, Texas school teachers remained one of the few state employees who failed to receive a pay raise this session. June polling found 79% of Texas voters, including 89% of Democrats, 73% of Republicans, and 70% of independents supportive of an increase of pay for public school teachers and staff, tied for the most support of any of the 16 issues tested.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Strongly support70%42%41%
Somewhat support19%28%32%
Somewhat oppose5%9%14%
Strongly oppose4%11%6%
Don't know/No opinion3%10%8%

With Governor Abbott already having promised to call a special session to address school vouchers, educational savings accounts, or some other type of school choice legislation later this year, 58% of voters said that they supported the establishment of a school choice program, including 77% of Republicans, 56% of independents, but only 36% of Democrats, among whom the plurality, 47%, said they opposed the establishment of a voucher program in Texas.

While many foundational policy discussions were taking place in the public education arena, a number of other, high-profile, but more ideological issues were also on the agenda, eliciting significant partisan differences in response.

Overall, 60% of voters said that they supported limiting the extent to which Texas’ public school teachers can talk about sexual orientation and/or gender identity, while a third of voters were opposed — 88% of Republicans expressed support compared to only 28% of Democrats, among whom 62% expressed opposition. A slight majority, 55%, supported removing any media from public school libraries that contain sexually explicit materials, with 37% in opposition — 81% of Republicans expressed support compared to 28% of Democrats, among whom 62% expressed opposition. A smaller majority of voters, 52%, expressed support for limiting the extent to which Texas’ public school teachers can talk about race and/or racism. However, 41% expressed opposition to this policy, including 69% of Democrats along with pluralities of Hispanic (49%) and Black (48%) Texans. Republican voters were overwhelmingly supportive, with 79% in favor.

Amidst a lot of activity by the legislature in the public education arena, evaluations of the quality of the public education system remain nearly fixed over 12 surveys assessing quality beginning in June 2013. Overall, only 9% of Texas voters rate the state’s public education system as ‘excellent’, with the plurality, 44%, rating it ‘good’, and the remainder rating it ‘not very good’ (29%), ‘terrible’ (8%), or hold no opinion (9%). Partisans express similarly tepid evaluations of Texas’ public education system.

IMMIGRATION ATTITUDES AND BORDER SECURITY

The poll revealed a continuing appetite for state spending and initiatives along the Texas-Mexico border amidst a slight uptick in opposition to legal immigration and punitive attitudes toward undocumented immigrants.

While the focus of immigration policy in Texas tends to center on illegal immigration and border security, a majority of Texans, 50%, said that the U.S. allows too many people to immigrate here legally, including 68% of Republicans, but also 58% of independents and 28% of Democrats.

Given these negative attitudes towards the amount of legal immigration currently taking place in the U.S., it’s unsurprising to find a majority of Texans, 59%, in support of the state’s deployment of additional state police and military resources to the border in an ostensible effort to combat illegal immigration — including 88% of Republicans, but also 30% of Democrats.

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categoryDemocratsIndependentsRepublicans
Feb. 201514%33%59%
June 201514%25%59%
Oct. 201512%32%57%
Feb. 201617%28%54%
June 20168%29%52%
Oct. 20167%32%56%
Feb. 20178%21%51%
June 20177%36%51%
Oct. 201712%30%44%
Feb. 201812%32%48%
June 20188%24%53%
Oct. 20189%29%62%
Feb. 201911%29%62%
June 201911%35%59%
Oct. 201912%28%57%
Feb. 202010%32%52%
Apr. 20201%8%28%
June 20203%14%29%
Oct. 20203%11%30%
Feb. 20212%23%46%
Mar. 20218%35%61%
Apr. 20216%35%65%
June 20216%35%59%
Aug. 20212%29%64%
Oct. 20212%26%68%
Feb. 20223%28%58%
Apr. 20224%31%61%
June 20222%19%45%
Aug. 20224%38%54%
Oct. 20224%35%61%
Dec. 20223%27%60%
Feb. 20235%32%59%
Apr. 20235%19%57%
June 20237%39%59%
Aug. 20235%38%59%
Oct. 20239%43%60%
Dec. 20237%32%61%
Feb. 202414%44%68%

Additionally, there’s no evidence in UT/TXPP polling that the significant increase in spending related to state border enforcement efforts are causing concern among majority party voters. Asked whether the state spends too much, too little, or the right amount on border security on the heels of another round of significant border spending increases in the new state budget, 40% of Texans hold the belief that the state spends ‘too little’ on the border, while 22% says the state is spending the ‘right amount,’ with only 26% holding the view that the state spends ‘too much.’ The share saying the state spends too little is statistically indistinguishable from the high recorded in response to this item in February of this year (41%).

Underlying support for further policing and spending is majority support for the immediate deportation of all undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. (58% agree, 35% disagree), driven largely by the view of Texas Republicans, among whom 84% support the immediate deportation of undocumented immigrants, compared to 31% of Democrats.

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categoryDemocratsIndpendentsRepublicans
June 201432%56%74%
Oct. 201437%55%80%
Feb. 201535%56%80%
Nov. 201531%59%74%
Feb. 201636%56%74%
June 201625%56%72%
Oct. 201621%53%70%
Oct. 201720%51%64%
Feb. 201817%50%70%
Oct. 201823%57%81%
Oct. 201924%47%76%
Feb. 202020%34%77%
Apr. 202018%46%75%
Feb. 202115%44%72%
Apr. 202118%44%82%
Apr. 202223%52%82%
Aug. 202220%50%79%
June 202331%60%84%
Aug. 202327%55%83%
Feb. 202435%55%80%

STATE PREEMPTION OF LOCAL GOVERNANCE

Despite the passage of a high-profile bill recently signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott that extensively curtails local governments’ ability to enact policies in several, large policy areas that overlap with state authority, Texans find local government more responsive, more fiscally responsible, and more honest than state government across a wide range of measures in the latest University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll.

State vs. local: Responsiveness

In separate items asking whether state and local government “mostly addresses” or “mostly ignores” the needs of their respective residents, Texans expressed more positive views about the responsiveness of their local governments than of state government, though neither earned positive reviews from a clear majority:

  • 47% of voters said that their local government “mostly addresses the needs of local residents,” while 39% said local government “mostly ignores” local residents’ needs.
  • Conversely, a comparatively smaller share, 36%, said that state government mostly addresses the needs of Texas residents, while nearly half, 49%, said state government mostly ignores Texans’ needs.
  • Democrats express much more positive views of local government (51% see local government as addressing needs, 38% take the negative view) than Republicans, who hold surprisingly similar evaluations of both state and local government given Republican state officials' and the legislature’s ongoing offensive against local governments. A majority of Texas Republicans view state government as addressing Texans' needs (54%), but the share who say the same about local government is only slightly smaller (49%).

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categoryTotal
Mostly addresses the needs of Texas residents36%
Mostly ignores the needs of Texas residents49%
Don't know15%

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categoryTotal
Mostly addresses the needs of local residents47%
Mostly ignores the needs of local residents39%
Don't know14%

State vs. local: “Careful with people’s tax dollars”

Another pair of items asked voters whether state and local governments are “mostly careful” or “mostly careless” with people’s tax dollars. While comparative views of local government were more positive in response to this item as well, the difference was smaller than the gap in views of responsiveness.

  • One-third (33%) of voters said that state government was “mostly careful,” while nearly half (48%) said that they viewed state government as mostly careless with Texans’ tax dollars.
  • Views of local government’s stewardship of tax dollars was nearly evenly divided: Two out of five (40%) said local government was mostly careful, while a slightly larger share (43%) said the locals were mostly careless.
  • Among Democrats, only slightly more than a quarter (26%) said state government was mostly careful with people’s tax dollars, while more than half (54%) said it was mostly careless. Republicans, having elected majorities to the legislature and all of the statewide elected officials for over two decades, were evenly split, with 42% saying the state is careful with people’s tax dollars, and 42% saying that the state is careless.
  • There are, again, much smaller partisan differences in views of the fiscal stewardship of local governments. Among Democrats, 45% said their local government was mostly careful with local tax dollars, while 39% found them mostly careless. Republicans were somewhat more negative: 41% said mostly careful (only four points less than Democrats), while 44% said mostly careless.

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categoryTotal
Mostly careful with people's tax dollars33%
Mostly careless with people's tax dollars48%
Don't know20%

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categoryTotal
Mostly careful with people's tax dollars40%
Mostly careless with people's tax dollars43%
Don't know17%

State vs. local: Honesty

The largest gap in perceptions of state and of local government in Texas came in response to items that asked whether each was “mostly honest” or “mostly dishonest.”

  • Overall, 35% view state government in Texas as mostly honest, while 39% say that state government is mostly dishonest.
  • Views of local government were substantially more positive: half (50%) said their local government was mostly honest, while 30% said it was mostly dishonest.
  • Partisans again differed in their views of state government but had similar, more positive views of local government. Half of Republicans (50%) said that state government was mostly honest while 27% thought it was mostly dishonest. Democrats were nearly a mirror image, with 24% viewing state government as honest and a majority, 54%, viewing it as dishonest.
  • Majorities of both Republicans (52%) and Democrats (54%) said their local governments were mostly honest.

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categoryTotal
Mostly honest35%
Mostly dishonest39%
Don't know25%

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categoryTotal
Mostly honest50%
Mostly dishonest30%
Don't know20%

Overall, the results suggest the pervasiveness of Texans’ skepticism toward institutions, including government. But they also reveal the continuation of a pattern in attitudes evident in earlier polling: Texans have more positive views of local government than of state government, especially Democrats, which is likely largely attributable to partisanship. But positive views of local government are not at all rare among Republicans, despite the rhetoric and legislation that have become central to GOP politics in both the legislative and executive branches.

Asked whether they support or oppose “reducing the power of cities and counties to pass laws or regulations in areas where state and local governments have traditionally shared authority” among a list of policies the legislature considered this session, only 41% of Texas voters expressed support — the lowest level of support from among the 16 policy items tested — while 35% expressed opposition, with the remainder unable to offer an opinion. While a majority of Republicans (53%) did support this measure, this was the lowest level of GOP support from the list of items entirely determined by the GOP majority in the legislature.

ATTORNEY GENERAL KEN PAXTON

In results released earlier this week as the Texas Senate was considering the rules for Ken Paxton’s trial in the upper house, 50% said his impeachment by the Texas House was justified, 17% said it was not, and a third (33%) had no opinion. Republicans were nearly evenly split: 31% thought the Texas House’s impeachment was justified, 30% not justified, and 39% had no opinion. Democratic views were unsurprisingly more lopsided: nearly three quarters (73%) thought the House was justified, 6% thought the impeachment was not justified, and 21% had no opinion.

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categoryTotal
Yes, justified50%
No, not justified17%
Don't know/No opinion33%

For more on results related to Paxton and his impeachment, see the Texas Politics Project advance release from June 20, 2023.

VIEWS OF TEXAS POLITICAL LEADERS

With the exception of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton, most Texas leaders’ job approval ratings were comfortably in the range within which they have fluctuated during the last year.

Gov. Abbott’s job approval rating remained narrowly in net-positive territory among registered voters  – +5 – while remaining very strong among Republicans, 81% of whom approve of the job Abbott is doing. Democratic views remain largely negative, with 76% disapproving, including 68% who disapprove strongly. Independents expressed a split opinion of Abbott’s job performance, with 39% approving and 40% disapproving.

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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%
February 202346%43%12%
April 202346%41%12%
June 202347%42%12%
August 202345%45%10%
October 202349%40%10%
December 202348%41%11%
February 202453%37%10%

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick finds himself yet again fluctuating around a break-even point with voters who hold a view of his job performance. Overall, 38% expressed approval while 35% expressed disapproval. Like Abbott, Patrick can rely on overwhelmingly positive views among Republican voters (66% approve / 7% disapprove), a near mirror image in Democratic assessments (11% approve / 64% disapprove), but significantly worse ratings among political independents (27% approve / 38% disapprove).

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PollApproveDisapproveNeither/Don't Know
November 201529%26%44%
February 201627%27%46%
June 201631%30%39%
October 201631%31%38%
February 201732%31%38%
June 201734%36%29%
October 201736%31%32%
February 201836%33%31%
June 201836%34%30%
October 201844%31%25%
February 201942%31%26%
June 201941%31%29%
October 201939%32%29%
February 202039%35%25%
April 202040%36%24%
June 202039%38%23%
October 202037%37%25%
February 202137%36%27%
March 202137%37%27%
April 202135%39%26%
June 202136%37%27%
August 202133%42%25%
October 202135%39%25%
February 202233%34%32%
April 202237%36%26%
June 202235%40%25%
August 202238%37%25%
October 202237%39%24%
December 202243%36%21%
February 202338%39%22%
April 202342%36%23%
June 202338%35%27%
August 202335%40%26%
October 202340%35%25%
December 202340%34%26%
February 202442%34%24%

Speaker Dade Phelan, in his second session leading the House, remains unknown to half of Texas voters. Among those who can offer an opinion on Phelan’s job performance, 22% said they approved while 29% disapproved. While Democrats offered characteristically negative evaluations (16% approve / 38% disapprove), Republican responses were somewhat ambivalent (29% approve / 23% disapprove).

Like the Speaker, the Texas Legislature as a whole finds itself in net-negative territory, with 33% approving of the job performance of the Legislature so far, and 40% disapproving. Unlike in response to the Speaker, views of the Legislature’s performance are much more polarized along party lines, with 52% of Republicans approving of the legislature’s job performance (21% disapproving) and 62% of Democrats disapproving (19% approving).

OTHER APPROVAL RATINGS

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.

For more detailed results on a wide range of policy issues, see this related post.

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