There’s less than a week remaining in the 2023 Texas legislative session. To say it’s been controversial on many fronts is an understatement: With property taxes, border security and LGBTQ issues all on the line, there’s been no shortage of eye-catching headlines these past five months. But what do everyday Texans make of what they’re hearing about what’s going on at the Legislature?
The Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation recently released a survey of registered voters called “Texas Decides” that reveals what voters appear to make of the issues in this legislative session. Mark Jones, the foundation’s director of research and a political science professor at Rice University, joined the Standard to tell us about his findings.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Let’s begin with some demographics. You actually had more than 1,000 respondents. What’s the margin of error here?
Mark Jones: 2.9%. So, it could be that 3% on either side of any result would be accurate.
With that in mind, let’s give an example of what’s in this survey. You asked respondents about Texas Senate Bill 8, which would establish these so-called education savings accounts, often described as vouchers here in Texas.
Seventy percent of Black Texans support SB 8, compared to 59% of Hispanic and 55% of white Texans. What do you make of that? What about overall support, too?
Overall support – 58% of Black Texans, primarily in Dallas and the Houston area, are strong supporters of school choice. Among white Texans, there’s a strong divide based on partisanship. Republicans overwhelmingly favor it, and white Democrats overwhelmingly oppose it.
What about property tax? What did you find on that score?
We found overwhelming support for both House Bill 2, which would cap appraisal increases, and Senate Bill 3, which would increase the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $70,000 – to $100,000 if you’re 65 and older. We found 85-86% of Texans support that – overwhelming support.
What we’re probably going to find is some sort of mixture of that, because Texans want to see both of that. They both want both the appraisal cap and the exemption. And I think they may get it.
» MORE: Patrick and Phelan remain at odds over property tax relief, making a special session of the Texas Legislature increasingly likely
One of the bits of legislation that has received quite a bit of attention is Senate Bill 14, which would prohibit medical professionals from providing puberty-inhibiting drugs, cross-sex hormones and other medical interventions to children under the age of 18. You found 66% of Texans supporting Senate Bill 14. How else does that break down?
About 90% of Republicans support it, 70% of independents and also 2 out of 5 Democrats. It’s a bill that, while in the Legislature, we see an overwhelming majority of Democrats voting against it, but 2 in 4 of rank-and-file Democrats out there in the Texas population support it. So SB 14 is legislation that has pretty strong support among Texans across the board.
Senate Bill 15 would prohibit Texas public university athletic teams from allowing a student to compete on a team designated for one biological sex if that student’s biological sex is opposite that designated for the team. What about opposition and support for that?
Seventy percent of Texans support it, 30% oppose it. Once again, an overwhelming majority of Republicans and independents support it. Two out of 5 Democrats also support it, but 3 out of 5 Democrats oppose it.
Is there a through line that you’ve been able to pick up on as you pulled out these findings?
What we see is the reason why Republicans are focused on these very specific bills related to the LGBTQ community. These are the issues where Republicans know they have a majority of popular support on their side. We’re not seeing issues that focus more on adults in the transgender space simply because Republicans realize they start to lose support there.
Could you tell us a little bit about why the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation came out with this survey?
Well, we’re at the end of the legislative session in Texas. Of course, our Legislature meets only every two years in a regular session. These are the bills that are being debated during these final weeks. So, we wanted to give Texans a voice to show what they thought about this host of issues, so that the public, the media and representatives know where Texans stand on these issues, not just where, say, lobbyists or certain politicians or political activists stand.