Texans feeling the pain of property taxes, but most voters have higher priorities for the 88th Legislature

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As Texas elected officials debate how to spend a historic budget surplus, the latest University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll suggests that state leaders’ persistent focus on reducing property tax bills finds a broadly receptive audience in the Texas electorate, even though perennial problems such as border security, school safety, and mental health loom larger in the minds of Texas voters. In a familiar pattern, Republicans and Democrats hold vastly different priorities as the 88th Legislature sets an agenda that will be reflected in new laws and in the next state budget.

Asked an open-ended question about what the legislature should prioritize while in session, a modest plurality of Texans, 24%, mentioned immigration and border security issues — a result driven by the preferences of the lion’s share of Republicans, almost half (49%). None of the other items raised in the open-ended responses exceeded single digits among the overall sample, or among Republicans, including property taxes (mentioned by only 4% of voters, and 7% of Republicans).

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categoryTotal
Immigration / Border security24%
Inflation / Cost of living8%
Gun control / Gun safety7%
The economy6%
Education5%
Energy / The electric grid4%
Health care4%
Property taxes4%
Abortion3%

The latest poll was conducted February 10-21, 2023, among 1,200 self-declared registered voters in Texas. It has a margin of sampling error of +/- 2.83 percentage points for the full sample.

When asked about how state taxes impact their personal finances, a majority of Texas voters, 58%, say that property taxes have a “major impact” on their personal finances. A plurality, 47%, rated property taxes as having the greatest impact on their finances when asked to compare the impact of the most prominent state and local taxes. A majority of Republicans (59%) and a plurality of Democrats (40%) said property taxes impact their personal finances the most.

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categoryTotal
Property tax47%
Sales tax21%
Motor fuels (gasoline) tax18%
Business margins tax3%
Taxes on alcohol and tobacco3%
Don’t know9%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Property tax40%43%59%
Sales tax28%24%13%
Motor fuels (gasoline) tax16%16%17%
Business margins tax3%5%2%
Taxes on alcohol and tobacco3%2%2%
Don’t know10%10%6%

Gun-related policies top Democratic priorities (13%), but the issue exerts less gravity among Democrats compared to the broader consensus among Republicans on the primacy of border security. No other issue exceeded single digits among Democratic voters in the open-ended responses, either.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Immigration / Border security3%18%49%
Inflation / Cost of living8%6%7%
Gun control / Gun safety13%0%2%
The economy3%11%7%
Education8%5%4%
Energy / The electric grid6%3%2%
Health care7%5%1%
Property taxes3%2%7%
Abortion5%2%1%

As the state’s leadership debates the disposition of a historic windfall of state revenue, more than half of Texans say the state is spending too little in four areas that suggest attention to both social and physical infrastructure: mental health services (60%), electric infrastructure (56%), healthcare (52%), and water infrastructure (51%).

  • Republicans and Democrats expressed different priorities. At least 70% of Democrats said the state was spending too little on 7 of the 12 issues listed: Healthcare (78%), mental health services (77%), electric infrastructure (77%), environmental protection (74%), K-12 education (71%), water infrastructure (71%), and children in the state’s care (70%). Fewer than half of Democrats thought the state was spending too little in only two of the policy areas: prisons and the penal system (32%) and border security (20%).
  • In contrast, border security topped the list of issue areas in which Republicans said the state was spending too little: in fact, it was the only item on the list in which a majority (63%) said the state was spending too little. The next highest “too little” response among Republicans was to state spending on mental health services (42%); none of the remaining 10 policy areas were seen as requiring more spending by GOP voters. 

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Too much48%25%9%
About the right amount22%16%22%
Too little20%43%63%
Don't know/No opinion10%16%6%

  • Though state spending on border security has more than doubled in the current two-year budget over the previous biennium, the share of Republicans who said the state spends “too little” on border security, 63%, was the highest recorded since the question was first asked in February 2019. Overall, 41% said the state was spending too little, 28% said too much, and 21% about the right amount.

With many bills filed that would change laws in high-profile policy areas like voting, guns, abortion, gambling, and marijuana, Texans' views appear to have incorporated the general rightward shift in laws accomplished during the 2021 session. 

  • In the wake of drastic new limits on abortion access since the 2021 session and the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, almost half of Texans, 47%, think abortion laws in Texas should be made less strict, with less than half of the remaining share saying they should be made more strict (22%) or left as they are (21%).
    • Stark partisan differences remain. A large majority of Democrats, 79%, say abortion laws should be made less strict, while a plurality of Texas Republicans support the status quo (41%). However, nearly a third of Texas Republicans (32%) still say that abortion laws in Texas should be made more strict. A plurality of independents, 40%, also take the “less strict” position, with 20% wanting abortion laws more strict — a quarter of independents held no opinion.

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categoryTotal
More strict22%
Left as they are now21%
Less strict47%
Don’t know/No opinion10%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
More strict12%20%32%
Left as they are now5%15%41%
Less strict79%40%20%
Don’t know/No opinion4%25%7%

  • In the aftermath of the reduction in training and licensing requirements to carry a firearm in 2021 and the Uvalde mass shooting in 2022, half of Texans say gun laws should be made more strict; 29% say they should be left as they are, and only 16% want them made less strict.
    • In the aftermath of the reduction in training and licensing requirements to carry a firearm in 2021 and the Uvalde mass shooting in 2022, half of Texans say gun laws should be made more strict; 29% say they should be left as they are, and only 16% want them made less strict.

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categoryTotal
More strict50%
Left as they are now29%
Less strict16%
Don’t know/No opinion5%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
More strict79%36%22%
Left as they are now10%32%51%
Less strict10%19%24%
Don’t know/No opinion2%13%3%

  • Amidst well-funded efforts to expand legal gambling in the state, including both online sports betting and casino gaming, Texans remain divided on loosening the current, largely prohibitive laws. A plurality, 39%, favors making gambling laws less strict, while 25% favor the current laws, leaving only 20% who want them made more strict. These divisions in existing opinion make the 16% who don’t have an opinion likely targets of persuasion should gaming advocates succeed in putting a measure approving some form (or forms) of gambling on the ballot in a constitutional amendment election.
  • Overall, the electorate remains divided on the direction of voting rules in Texas, with 32% calling for stricter laws, 32% calling for a loosening of Texas’ voting rules, and 30% supporting the status quo.
    • After ultimately unsuccessful Democratic efforts to derail Republican voting legislation during the 2021 legislative session and ongoing, repeated, and still unsubstantiated claims of election irregularities persisting throughout and beyond the 2022 elections, the majority of Texas Republicans, 54%, say that the rules for voting in Texas should be made still more strict. A third, 36%, would leave those laws unchanged, while only 7% would loosen Texas voting rules. Among Democrats, a majority (57%) would loosen current voting rules, while 23% would maintain the status quo and 15% would strengthen the state’s rules for voting.

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categoryTotal
Extremely important55%
Very important28%
Somewhat important11%
Not very important3%
Not important1%
Don't know/No opinion3%

Asked to assess the importance of different priorities the legislature might address in the state’s K-12 public education system, a majority of Texas voters, 52%, deemed only one priority, school safety, “extremely important,” followed at some distance by teacher pay (42%) and curriculum content (42%). From a broader perspective, more than half of respondents said that seven policy areas were either “extremely” or “very” important: School safety, teacher pay, curriculum content, parental rights, public school financing, public school library materials, and facilities and school infrastructure improvements. Policy areas deemed an “extremely” or “very” important priority by less than a majority of voters included vouchers, educational savings accounts (ESAs), or other “school choice” legislation; The treatment of students who are transgender; and expanding the number of charter schools.

Asked to choose the “top priority” from the same list of policies, the top response remained school safety (29%), followed by teacher pay (21%) and curriculum content (17%); the remaining items were each assigned top priority by fewer than 10% of voters.

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categoryTotal
School safety29%
Teacher pay / teacher retention21%
Curriculum content (i.e. what students are taught)17%
Parental rights9%
Vouchers, educational savings accounts (ESAs), or other “school choice” legislation8%
Public school financing6%
Facilities and school infrastructure additions or improvements5%
Expanding the number of charter schools3%
Public school library materials1%
The treatment of students who are transgender1%

  • Republicans and Democrats were in broad agreement that school safety should be a top legislative priority, though there were sharp differences beyond that one point of consensus. The top priorities among Republicans included curriculum content (25%) and school safety (24%), followed by “parental rights” (17%) and school choice options (14%). Among Democrats, there was a broader consensus with more than two-thirds identifying either school safety (33%) or teacher pay (34%) as their top priority, followed at some distance in Democratic rankings by public school financing (9%) and improvements to school facilities and infrastructure (8%).

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
School safety33%29%24%
Teacher pay / teacher retention34%22%10%
Curriculum content (i.e. what students are taught)7%15%25%
Parental rights2%9%17%
Vouchers, educational savings accounts (ESAs), or other “school choice” legislation2%9%14%
Public school financing9%9%2%
Facilities and school infrastructure additions or improvements8%3%3%
Expanding the number of charter schools3%0%4%
Public school library materials1%0%1%
The treatment of students who are transgender1%4%0%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Extremely important15%17%27%
Very important19%28%27%
Somewhat important17%18%21%
Not very important10%7%7%
Not important24%13%6%
Don't know/No opinion14%17%12%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Strongly support13%21%26%
Somewhat support22%19%33%
Somewhat oppose14%11%12%
Strongly oppose43%30%18%
Don’t know/No opinion8%19%11%

  • With the legislature expected to take up legislation pertaining to the treatment of children who are transgender, only 20% of Texas voters said that this was an “extremely important” priority, while only 1% identified it as the top priority for the Legislature to address in K-12 public education policy. Surprisingly given its prominence in 2022 campaigning, fewer than 1% of Texas Republicans said that this should be the legislature’s top priority in public education, while 42% said that legislating the treatment of transgender children is “not important.”
    • On a separate item, 59% of Texans said that they do not personally know anyone who is transgender, while 33% said that they do. Some of the largest gaps in exposure to people who are transgender were among partisans. While nearly half of Democrats do (44%) and do not (49%) personally know a person who is transgender, among Republicans, 70% say they don’t personally know anyone who is transgender compared to fewer than one in four, 23%, who say that they do.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Yes44%37%23%
No49%59%70%
Don’t know/Unsure7%4%7%

Economic development

  • As political leaders conitnue to debate how to encourage economic development in the state, the poll found continuing support for providing incentives to corporations and businesses to locate to, or remain in, Texas. 

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categoryTotal
Should46%
Should not32%
Don't know/No opinion22%

  • Texans continue to convey mixed views of the impact of the state’s rapid and sustained population growth. Nearly equal shares view the state’s population growth positively (34%) and negatively (36%), while opinions about the local impact of growth look largely similar (33% say growth has been good for their local area, 37% say it has been bad). A near majority of Republican voters, 47%, say population growth has been bad both for the state and locally, while Democrats’ responses to growth remain more positive, with pluralities saying that growth has been good for the state (46%) and locally (41%).

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Good46%27%27%
Bad22%43%47%
Don’t have an opinion32%30%27%

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categoryDisagreeAgree
February 201031%57%
October 201138%50%
October 201236%54%
February 201331%60%
June 201530%59%
June 201735%54%
February 202030%54%
April 202030%58%
June 202142%51%
August 202144%50%
October 202142%51%
February 202340%51%
June 202340%50%

 

General assessments

  • The share of Texans saying the state is on the wrong track crossed back over the 50% threshold after a brief dip below 50% in December (46%), increasing back to 51%. Excluding the December results, at least 50% of Texans have said the state is on the wrong track in 5 surveys beginning in April 2022.

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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%
February 202335%51%
April 202337%50%
June 202338%49%
August 202333%55%
October 202337%50%
December 202338%49%
February 202444%44%

  • Texans continue to convey mixed views of the impact of the state’s rapid and sustained population growth. Nearly equal shares view the state’s population growth positively (34%) and negatively (36%), while opinions about the local impact of growth look largely similar (33% say growth has been good for their local area, 37% say it has been bad). A near majority of Republican voters, 47%, say population growth has been bad both for the state and locally, while Democrats’ responses to growth remain more positive, with pluralities saying that growth has been good for the state (46%) and locally (41%).

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Good41%22%28%
Bad28%42%47%
Don’t have an opinion31%36%25%

  • The impact of persistent campaigning by GOP politicians on the themes of public safety and crime have made an impact on Republican voters. Asked in the most recent survey how safe they feel in the area where they live, 84% of Texas voters say that they feel either “very” (31%) or “somewhat”  (53%) safe — only 14% say they feel unsafe. Republicans have long expressed greater feelings of safety than other groups, including in this survey, in which 35% of Republicans said that they felt very safe compared to 30% of Democrats. However, the share of Republicans saying that they feel “very safe” has declined by 20 points since the question was first asked in October 2020, from 55% to 35, while Democratic responses have remained largely unchanged over the same period.

Views of Texas Political Leaders

After a slight uptick in evaluations during post-election victory laps and the winter holidays, assessments of the state’s political leaders settled back into familiar ranges.

  • After hitting a high for 2022 in the last UT/TXP poll of the year, Governor Abbott’s job approval landed in pretty familiar territory in February polling, with 46% approving of Abbott’s job performance and 43% disapproving. Among Republicans, 83% approve of the Governor’s job performance, while 72% of Democrats disapprove. Among independents, 38% approve, 46% disapprove.

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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’s approval ratings followed a similar pattern to the governor’s. After a slight uptick in December 2022 polling (43% approve, 36% disapprove), February polling finds 38% of voters approving of Patrick’s job performance and 39% disapproving.
  • Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan finds himself unknown to a majority of Texans as he enters his second session at the helm of the Texas House. Since he began his speakership, his name ID among the Texas electorate has increased 7 points, from 60% unable to offer an opinion of Speaker Phelan in February of 2021, to 53% today. Overall, 21% approve of the job Phelan is doing as speaker, while 25% disapprove. More Democrats than Republicans hold an opinion of Phelan’s job performance, with 44% of Democrats disapproving (14% approving) and 35% of Republicans approving (9% disapproving).
  • Texas voters are split on the job performance of Ken Paxton, with 35% approving and 38% disapproving. Despite continued attention to the Attorney General’s legal troubles, assessments of his job performance remain largely unchanged, with 65% of Republicans approving and 71% of Democrats disapproving.
  • Texas Sens. Cruz and Cornyn both find themselves underwater with the Texas electorate, and in a reflection of a habitual pattern in polling, the state’s senior senator trails his junior. Overall, 40% of Texas voters approve of Senator Cruz’s job performance compared to 46% who disapprove; for Senator Cornyn, 30% approve compared to 43% who disapprove. While Democratic disapproval is more widespread for Cruz than for Cornyn (81% vs. 61%) Republican approval of Cruz compared to Cornyn stands out: 78% approve of the job Cruz is doing (only 10% disapprove), while only 48% approve of the job Cornyn is doing, with 26% disapproving.

National Politics

  • Amidst continued inflationary pressures, one in four Texans continue to say that either inflation (16%) or the economy (9%) is the most important problem facing the country. Nearly two-thirds of voters, 65%, say that the country is on the wrong track (unchanged from December), while a majority, 53%, say that the national economy is worse now compared to last year — only 24% say it is better.
  • As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its second year, about a third of Texans (32%) say the U.S. is doing the right amount in response to the invasion, while 30% say the U.S. is doing too much and 21% too little (17% didn’t know). Texas Republicans demonstrate the same divided opinions as do their national counterparts: the plurality of Republicans, 46%, say the U.S. is doing too much, while 22% say the right amount and 17% too little. Democrats are more supportive of an engaged U.S.: 46% say the U.S. is currently doing the right amount, while 28% say too little and only 12%, too much.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Too much12%44%46%
Too little28%12%17%
Right amount46%23%22%
Don’t know/No opinion14%21%15%

The 2024 Election

  • A plurality of Texas Democrats (45%) think that President Joe Biden should run for reelection, while 38% said he shouldn’t run and 17% didn’t offer an opinion. This registered a slight increase in support for a Biden reelection effort compared to the August UT/Texas Politics Project Poll, when 42% of Democrats thought the president should run again, and 38% thought not. Support for a Biden reelection run is most apparent among strong Democrats (58% say he should run again), but much less impressive among Texans who identify as liberal (40% say he should run again, 42% say he shouldn’t).
  • More than half of Republicans (56%) think Donald Trump should run for president in 2024, while a third (33%) think he should forego another run. Support for a Trump candidacy among Republicans decreased since August 2022, when 61% favored another Trump presidential campaign, and 27% thought the former president should not run again.
  • Asked whether they hold favorable or unfavorable opinions about expected GOP presidential primary candidate Ron DeSantis and current presidential primary candidate, Donald Trump, the former president slightly edges out the Florida governor. But DeSantis earned surprisingly strong reviews for an out-of-state politician who has yet to run for national office. Only 22% of voters (and an even lower number of Republicans, 18%) didn’t express a view of DeSantis.
    • Among Texas Republicans, 75% hold a favorable view of DeSantis compared to 79% who hold a favorable view of Trump. Gov. Abbott, received the highest favorability rating among Republicans out of this group at 85%.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Very favorable3%13%50%
Somewhat favorable8%18%25%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable11%16%11%
Somewhat unfavorable8%8%5%
Very unfavorable61%30%3%
Don't know/No opinion8%16%7%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Very favorable4%13%49%
Somewhat favorable6%15%30%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable5%15%10%
Somewhat unfavorable2%12%7%
Very unfavorable82%42%5%
Don't know/No opinion0%4%0%

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Very favorable5%12%46%
Somewhat favorable8%27%39%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable7%12%7%
Somewhat unfavorable7%11%5%
Very unfavorable72%31%3%
Don't know/No opinion1%7%1%

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