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.
|Not very much||18%|
|None at all||5%|
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.)
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:
- 8% approved of how the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) handled the response to the storm, 72% disapproved (61% strongly)
- 12% approved of how the Public Utility Commission (PUC) handled the response to the storm, 50% disapproved
- 12% approved of how the Railroad Commission of Texas handled the response to the storm, 47% disapproved
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.
|Your water utility||46%|
|Your electric provider||45%|
|Your gas utility||39%|
|The natural gas industry||28%|
|The renewable energy industry||23%|
|The electric power industry||16%|
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.
|Your local government||47%|
|Governor Greg Abbott||41%|
|Senator Ted Cruz||31%|
|The Texas Legislature||28%|
|Senator John Cornyn||26%|
|The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC)||12%|
|Railroad Commission of Texas||12%|
|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
|Water service interruption||54%|
|Damage to your home||21%|
|Natural gas service interruption||13%|
|Damage to your vehicle||8%|
|Did not have reliable internet access in your home||56%|
|Did not have reliable internet access on your cell phone||47%|
|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.