A new poll released this week reveals Texas voters’ attitudes about topics ranging from immigration to the president. Texans remain sharply divided along ideological lines.
Jim Henson is director of the Texas Politics Project, and leads the team that conducted the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. He tells Texas Standard that the responses to many questions were split along party lines. The big takeaway from this poll, he says, is that Texas is still a very politically polarized state.
“I think the … thing that you really see in this is the continuing divisions, and just how differently different parties see the world,” Henson said. “Very few points of common consensus.”
Mixed feelings about President Biden
Henson says Biden is “holding his own” but not doing well in Texas. Approval for the president fell along party lines: Democrats were mostly pleased with his handling of the pandemic; Republicans were mostly displeased with his handling of immigration.
Henson says based on sheer numbers, Biden didn’t poll much differently than Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. But voters approved or disapproved of each politician for different reasons, he says.
“The approval comes from different corners,” he said. “The numbers are similar for Joe Biden and for Greg Abbott, but they are mirror images of each other. When you drill down, Republicans strongly, generally, approve of the job that Greg Abbott is doing; Democrats generally approve of the job that Joe Biden is doing. But there’s very little overlap in those assessments.”
Low approval of Congress; high approval of Ted Cruz
Henson says Congress is “perpetually in the doghouse” in Texas, and once again polled low among voters overall. But individual politicians fared better in the poll.
“When you put a person in that position [in the poll], you get, you know, you get more personal reactions,” Henson said.
Henson says Sen. Ted Cruz is still “very popular” among Republicans, while Sen. John Cornyn got “mediocre” ratings from his fellow Republicans. Henson says that could be because they associate him more with the Washington, D.C., political establishment.
Few voters are following the Lege
Henson says about 10% of people polled said they were closely following the Texas legislative session this year. More broadly, about half of people polled said they were following it at all. Despite low engagement, though, he says Texans still have opinions about many of the issues lawmakers are debating at the Capitol like guns, the electric grid and COVID-19.
Electric grid proposals are popular
Henson says proposals in the Legislature to strengthen Texas’ electric grid, like requiring all board members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to live in the state and winterization of power plants, are popular with voters. Winterization is particularly popular because Henson says it’s easy for voters to understand and get behind.
“I think [it] is intuitive and and makes sense in an otherwise very complicated set of issues,” he said.
Still, he says voters aren’t confident the Legislature will make much progress in preventing future electric grid disasters.
Immigration topped all issues
The federal government has jurisdiction over immigration policy. Still, Henson says that’s the issue a majority of voters said was most important to them, topping all other issues, including the next three – COVID-19, political corruption/leadership and gun control/gun violence – combined. More than half of Republicans cited immigration and border security as the most important issue in the state right now, and that sentiment seeped into their feelings about the president.