New UT/Texas Politics Project Poll: Majority of Texans oppose banning abortion as the share saying Texas is headed in the wrong direction reaches a new high
We’ve released results from the June 2022 UT/Texas Politics Project Poll, which found new lows in Texans’ views of the economy, and of the path that the state and the country are on. An extensive overview of the poll results contains links to source files as well as our standard set of hundreds of downloadable graphics of results.
Here are some early takeaways on what the June poll tells us as a very stormy election year unfolds.
The results from several items on abortion and guns illustrate that state policies pursued in these areas by Texas Republicans in the 2021 legislative session remain at odds with the views of a majority of Texans, including large shares of Republicans. In a result consistent with years of previous polling on the subject, only 15% of Texans agreed that “abortion should never be permitted,” including only 23% of Republicans. A more detailed approach to when and under what circumstances abortion should be permitted found that 13% would prohibit abortion in cases of rape, and 11% in cases of incest. Data collection took place from June 16-24, so these attitudes predated the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade. When it comes to access to guns, 66% support the idea of a “red flag” law, including 49% of Republicans (a plurality); 70% support raising the minimum age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21 years of age, including 56% of Republicans. But underlying attitudes about guns continue to provide evidence of the countervailing pressures at work when it comes to gun safety measures: The plurality of Texans, 43%, expressed the opinion that if more people carried guns, the U.S. would be less safe. While 77% of Democrats said more people carrying guns would make the U.S. less safe, the majority of Republicans, 57%, said more people carrying guns would make the U.S. more safe.
Mounting economic woes are fueling negative views of the path the state is on: With elections for statewide offices and the Texas legislature just over four months away, 59% of Texas voters said that the state was on the wrong track — the largest share of negative responses in the poll’s history. We saw a similar but lower wrong-track number in August 2021 (52%), amidst a COVID-19 resurgence and pitched conflict over the policy responses to it, particularly in public schools. Only 31% said the state was headed in the right direction, 8 points lower than the April reading of 39%. Attitudes are more negative now by every measure of Texans’ views of the economic and political environment: 53% said that their personal economic situation is worse than a year ago; 58% said the Texas economy is worse than a year ago; and 73% said the national economy is worse than it was a year ago. Texas Republicans have been banking on exploiting inflation and the tumultuous national economy in conjunction with their partisan advantages in Texas, and Democratic control of the national government. Some of those conditions clearly still hold. President Joe Biden’s job approval numbers tied their historic lows (35% approve, 55% disapprove), and Texans' views of the direction of the U.S. is also at its lowest in the history of the poll – 76% said the country was on the wrong track, while only 16% said it was headed in the right direction. But views of conditions in Texas have also taken on a negativity of their own.
The gap between overall public preferences on issues like abortion and guns, and the public policy produced by Texas government, coincides with what is beginning to look like a deeply rooted decay in democratic norms and institutional trust among Texans. A little more than a third of Texans (35%) don’t think Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election, and another 11% say they aren’t sure; 54% think Biden won legitimately – attitudes that are unchanged from the last time we asked the same question in February. The high-visibility hearings held by the House committee formed to investigate the January 6th riot in the U.S. Capitol have not had much apparent impact on these and other related views: 54% agreed that “Protesters who entered the United States Capitol January 6th, 2021 were attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election,” while 36% disagreed (25% strongly so) – statistically indistinguishable from results in February 2022. Only 35% think official election results in the U.S. are “very accurate,” while 16% say they are very inaccurate (along with another 18% who say they are somewhat inaccurate). Other institutional ratings found still more signs of decay, especially when viewed in this context.
In Texas’ high profile 2022 election, Republican candidates continued to lead in the most high-profile races. Incumbent Governor Greg Abbott leads Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke by 6 points among registered voters, 45% to 39%, with 3% choosing third party candidates and 13% either someone else or are currently undecided. The races for Lt. Governor and Attorney General have so far generated less attention than the Governor’s race. In the rematch of the 2018 race for Lt. Governor, incumbent Republican Dan Patrick leads Democratic challenger Mike Collier 38% to 26%, with 11% preferring Libertarian Shanna Steel, and 31% either “someone else” or remaining undecided. Incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton leads Democratic challenger Rochelle Garza 37% to 29%. In the generic congressional ballot, Republicans lead Democrats 46% to 41%, while in the generic ballot for Texas Legislature, the Republican also leads the Democrat 46% to 41%.
Sen. John Cornyn might have gotten a lot of attention in the national press for his leadership in negotiating what passed for a gun safety bill last month, but his job approval numbers cratered in his home state. It’s no secret that Sen. Cornyn’s job approval numbers are typically mediocre compared to the top-tier of elected Republicans in Texas, but his numbers decreased spectacularly in June after his turn in the spotlight. Only 24% approved of his job performance (7% strongly, 17% somewhat), which ties his lowest rating in our polling (back in June 2016). But there’s a crucial difference; six years ago, the low job approval was paired with 35% disapproving, with about 40% not having a view one way or the other. Last month, 50% disapproved of how he was doing his job. His approval among Republicans decreased 12 points, from 53% to 41%, while GOP disapproval doubled, from 17% to 34%. And this didn’t mean that he earned capital with other partisans: his approval numbers among Democrats and independents also worsened. Cornyn’s high profile role in passing the first major gun legislation in decades was widely viewed by political observers as aimed at improving his standing within the Senate, especially within the Republican caucus, amidst maneuvering to succeed Mitch McConnell as GOP leader. That play has come at a steep price with his voters, at least in the short run.
There are a few results that seem like possible leading indicators or signs of something going on in public attitudes in some areas, though it’s probably premature to declare trends, inflection points, or the like.
U.S. support for Ukraine. Texas voters are split on whether the U.S. is doing too much (28%), too little (27%), or the right amount (25%) in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a noticeable shift from April polling, when 39% said the U.S. was doing too little and only 15% said the U.S. was doing too much.
Expectations of political violence in the U.S. Between February and June, the share that said they expect there to be more political violence in the U.S. in the future increased, from 54% to 64%. Only 8% expected there to be less political violence in the future. This could be included in the democracy point above.
Belief that climate change is happening. 64% said they believed climate change is happening, while 20% said it was not and 16% chose the “not sure” option. Partisan differences in views persist: 90% of Democrats said climate change is happening, and among Republicans, a plurality of 42% also agreed its real. But adding the 36% who say it’s not happening to the 22% who say they’re not sure produces a skeptical majority, which is consistent with previous results.
Ideological pressures from the wings of the parties. Asked if Republican elected officials in Texas “are conservative enough, too conservative, or not conservative enough,” 35% of Republicans said not conservative enough, 44% said conservative enough, and 13%, too conservative. Asked about the liberalism of their Democratic elected officials in the state, 40% said not liberal enough, 33% said liberal enough, and 9%, too liberal.
The poll surveyed 1200 Texas registered voters representative of the demographic characteristics of the state’s population from June 16-24, 2022, and is the 50th in a series of polls initiated in 2008 as part of the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin. Daron Shaw and I are co-directors of the poll, and Joshua Blank, as research director of the Texas Politics Project, plays a vital role. Again, you can find details on all of these results and much more on our website, along with toplines, crosstabs, and data files. More analysis and interpretation of results will be forthcoming at the Texas Politics Project website. Please get in touch with questions.
Executive Director, The Texas Politics Project
College of Liberal Arts / Department of Government
The University of Texas at Austin