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UT/Texas Politics Project Poll: School Safety a Priority for Texas Voters

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Capitol and South Mall 2015

AUSTIN, Texas — School safety is the only education issue that a majority of Texans, 55%, said was “extremely important” for the Legislature to address, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll.

“Improving school safety enjoys a degree of bipartisan support among voters,” said James Henson, co-director of UT Austin’s Texas Politics Project and a co-director of the poll. “There was much more of a partisan divide in other areas of public education policy. Among Republicans, for example, school safety is effectively tied with curriculum content as the top priority, while among Democrats school safety is similarly tied with teacher pay and retention.”

In the wake of the 2021 passage of some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, almost half of Texans, 47%, now think abortion laws in Texas should be made less strict, with 22% saying they should be made stricter and 21% saying that abortion laws should be left as they are.

Stark partisan differences remain, however. A large majority of Democrats, 79%, said abortion laws should be made less strict. A plurality of Texas Republicans supports the status quo, but nearly a third, 32%, say abortion laws should be stricter.

“As one might expect, Democrats are more concerned about abortion and more likely to want an expansion of abortion rights,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the Texas Politics Project and the Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Chair of State Politics. “But it is also worth noting that this issue isn’t as salient as many have assumed: Fewer than 5% of Texans consider abortion the most important issue facing the state.”

The poll also explored Texans’ attitudes in a variety of areas being addressed by the Legislature this session, including guns, gambling, marijuana and immigration. Asked what the Legislature’s top priority should be, a modest number of Texans, 24%, mentioned immigration and border security issues as their top legislative priority, with 49% of Republicans listing them as a top priority. Among Democrats, gun-related policies led the list, with 13% of Democratic respondents citing them as the top priority. No other issue breaks into double figures among Democrats.

Half of Texans now say gun laws should be made stricter, with 29% saying they should be left as they are, and 16% wanting them less strict. The majority of Republicans, 51%, want gun laws left alone. Democrats overwhelmingly want more strict gun laws (79%), with some Democrats wanting them made either less strict (10%) or left as they are now (10%).

“This is a good example of how the public is responding to high-profile incidents of mass violence, but also the Legislature’s response to those shootings in recent years,” said Joshua Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project. “Taken in this context, it’s not surprising to see a majority of Texans and the vast majority of Democrats asking for stronger gun laws, nor that a majority of Republican voters appears to have lost their appetite for looser gun laws.”

Amidst well-funded efforts to expand legal gaming in the state, including online sports betting and casino gambling, Texans remain divided. Thirty-nine percent of Texans favor making gambling laws less strict, while 25% favor the current laws and 20% want them stricter.

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: mental health services (60%), electric infrastructure (56%), health care (52%) and water infrastructure (51%).

Other findings include:

  • Texas Democrats are more supportive than Republicans of U.S. involvement in Ukraine defense against the Russian invasion. Overall, 32% of Texans think the U.S. is doing the right amount in response to the invasion, while 30% think the U.S. is doing too much and 21% say too little.
  • A slight majority of Texans, 51%, want current marijuana laws made less strict, with 22% wanting them made stricter and 15% left as they are now.
  • Forty-six percent of Texas Democrats think President Joe Biden should run for reelection, a slight increase compared with the August 2022 poll, when 42% of Democrats thought he should run again.
  • Fifty-six percent of Republicans think Donald Trump should run for president, down from August 2022, when 61% favored another Trump run.

“There does not appear to be much of an appetite for another Biden-Trump presidential election,” says Shaw.  “For an incumbent Democratic president to be under 50 percent support amongst his own partisans is pretty underwhelming. Similarly, while Trump has appreciable support amongst Texas Republicans, more than 40% of Republicans don’t want him to run. Plus, Florida governor Ron DeSantis is waiting in the wings and our numbers show that he is well-known and well-liked in the Lone Star State.”

Full results from the poll and methodological information, including the questionnaire reporting results, cross tabs and downloadable graphics of results, are available on the Texas Politics Project website.