Texans see multiple causes of February’s winter storm outages, support many of the changes being discussed by the Texas Legislature

Poll summary
Poll crosstabs
Graphics for download

We just released the results of a March poll developed in conjunction with a team of researchers at the UT Energy Institute that asked dozens of questions about Texans’ experience during the winter storm, their attitudes toward causes and consequences of the storm, their views of, and expectations about, possible policy responses, and their views of how a wide range of actors from their neighbors and utility providers to state political leaders, regulatory bodies, and corporate actors. 

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A lot29%
Not very much18%
None at all5%

The poll contains a LOT of data given that the survey was developed by a team of researchers with a range of interests. We’ve pulled out some highlights for this initial rollout of the results in this post, but there will be a lot more to come, both here and from our colleagues at the UT Energy Institute based on their research programs. But you can use the links above to find the complete summary and crosstab documents, which are also in our poll archive along with data files.

The poll was conducted online among 1200 self-declared registered voters residing in Texas from March 19 to 26. The overall results had a margin of error of +/- 2.83%, or +/- 3.5% when accounting for the survey weights. 

We’ll have a separate post soon that focuses on the possible implications of some of the results for the ongoing political conversation in Texas, particularly in the legislature.

Views of what went wrong: factors that contributed to the negative impact of the storm

The survey asked Texans to consider a number of factors being discussed as contributing to the negative impacts of February’s winter storm. Large majorities of Texans said that the lack of winterization of electricity facilities (75%) and of gas facilities (64%) were major factors in the severity of the storm’s impact on Texans; 68% also cited the unprecedented nature of the storm as a major factor. The only other factor that more than half of Texans said was a major contributor was “policy making failures by Texas lawmakers,” which 52% said was a major factor. See the complete range of results in the graphic below, and extensive crosstabs on the latest poll page.

When asked to make a judgment about the biggest factor contributing to the storm’s impact, the top response was the lack of winterization of electric facilities. Nearly half of Texans (46%) said the widely publicized lack of cold weather preparation at electric facilities was either the biggest (23%) or the second biggest (23%) factor shaping the effects of the storm. 

Texans’ attitudes about the factors that contributed to the storm’s lasting impact were reflected in their support for possible legislative responses. Presented with a list of possible responses currently being debated in the Texas Legislature and among experts, 85% of Texans say that they support requiring energy providers to weatherize their facilities, including 68% who support the idea strongly. However, a much smaller share, 53%, favors providing government funds to pay for weatherization. Other proposals currently being discussed that gained more substantial support included requiring companies and regulators to ensure higher levels of reserve energy to meet spikes in demand (78%), requiring all Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) board members to reside in Texas (75%), and creating a statewide disaster alert system to alert Texans about impending weather related disasters and power outages (73%). (Click on each of the proposals in the table below for full results among political and demographic subgroups.)

Support for Proposals in Response to the 2021 Winter Storm
(March 2021 Texas Politics Project/UT Energy Institute Poll)
Proposal Overall Republicans Democrats
Require energy providers to weatherize their facilities 85% 84% 88%
Require that companies and regulators ensure higher levels of reserve energy to meet spikes in demand 78% 76% 82%
Require all Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) board members to reside in Texas 75% 76% 76%
Create a statewide disaster alert system to alert Texans about impending weather-related disasters and power outages 73% 65% 84%
Require the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to reduce the price of wholesale power paid by utilities in the electricity market during the winter storm 71% 65% 79%
Create a council of government energy regulators and emergency managers to coordinate during disasters 65% 53% 82%
Add more renewable energy to Texas’s energy supply 57% 31% 86%
Provide government funds to energy providers to weatherize their facilities 53% 51% 61%
Add more fossil fuel generation to Texas’s energy supply 51% 72% 31%
Ban products that allow residential customers to pay wholesale electricity prices that may save them money, but may also expose them to high bills during energy shortages 45% 40% 54%

How the storm and its effects were handled

The poll also explored Texans’ assessments of how various entities and actors handled the storm and its effects. Among those findings:

Texans approved more strongly of their local utility providers handling of the storm than they did of their respective industries writ large:

  • 45% approved of how their electric provider handled the storm and its aftermath, with 31% disapproving; but only 16% approved of how the electric power industry handled things, with 61% disapproving (38% strongly).
  • 39% approved of how their gas utility handled things while 11% disapproved, compared to 28% who approved of how the natural gas industry as a whole handled things, with 30% disapproved.

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Your water utility46%
Your electric provider45%
Your gas utility39%
The natural gas industry28%
The renewable energy industry23%
The electric power industry16%

The state’s political leadership received mixed reviews for their handling of the storm and its effects. Gov. Greg Abbott received approving marks from 41%, while 45% disapproved, while 28% approved of how the Texas legislature has handled the situation and 37% disapproved. Texans gave their local government higher marks than state-level elected officials: 47% approved of local government efforts, 26% disapproved.

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Your local government47%
Governor Greg Abbott41%
Senator Ted Cruz31%
The Texas Legislature28%
Senator John Cornyn26%
The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC)12%
Railroad Commission of Texas12%
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)8%

Texans reported experiences and responses

The poll also revealed Texans’ experiences during the storm and in its aftermath, as well as their plans to prepare for future storms:

  • 66% of those polled reported their electricity stopped working during the storm.
  • Of those who reported electricity outages, 49% reported being without electricity for 1 to 3 days, and 28% without power between 4 and 7 days.
  • 56% reported not having reliable internet access in their home.
  • 53% reported having to obtain drinking water.
  • 30% reported lost income from not being able to go to work
  • 40% reported an electricity bill that was higher than normal

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Electricity interruption66%
Water service interruption54%
Damage to your home21%
Natural gas service interruption13%
Damage to your vehicle8%

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Did not have reliable internet access in your home56%
Did not have reliable internet access on your cell phone47%
Did not have reliable phone service (cell phones or landlines)41%

The Texas Politics Project is a center of research, public affairs, and education projects focused on Texas politics and government in the College of Liberal Arts and the Department of Government.  The UT Energy Institute  is made up of more than 350 energy researchers in schools, departments and research centers throughout the UT Austin campus engaged in path-breaking research across the spectrum of energy issues. 

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