UT/TT Poll: Texans Stand Behind Death Penalty

Texans remain strongly in favor of the death penalty and nominally in favor of abortion rights and medically assisted suicide, according to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

Voters' overwhelming support for the death penalty remains intact, with 73 percent either somewhat or strongly in support and only 21 percent opposed.

"We have had dramatic support for the death penalty for a long time," said poll co-director Jim Henson, who teaches government at the University of Texas at Austin and runs the Texas Politics Project. "And given an alternative, there's not a wholesale rush for the exits."

 

.

Voters remain in support of the death penalty — though less so — when offered the alternative of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Under those circumstances, 53 percent stick with the death penalty and 37 percent prefer life in prison.

A 51 percent majority thinks the penalty is fairly administered in Texas, 28 percent said it is not fairly applied, and 21 percent said they didn't know or had no opinion.

"They're pretty strong proponents of the death penalty," said Daron Shaw, a UT-Austin government professor and co-director of the poll. "But you've got a lot of other people who are pretty hard on crime but aren't sure the death penalty works."

Texas voters have varied views on abortion. Women should always be able to obtain abortions as a matter of personal choice, according to 37 percent. Another 13 percent would allow abortions "after the need for the abortion has been clearly established." A third would allow abortions only in cases of rape, incest and danger to the mother's life, and 12 percent would never allow the procedure. That leaves 50 percent who would allow abortions with few or no restrictions, and 45 percent who would ban abortions with few or no exceptions.

There's a gender gap on that issue. While 54 percent of women would generally allow abortions, 51 percent of men would do so. And while 47 percent of men would generally restrict abortions, 40 percent of women would do so.

"We're nominally a pro-choice country, and this looks like the state is in line with the rest of the country," Shaw said.

.

Planned Parenthood is more liked than not, but Texans are split, with 46 percent saying they have a favorable impression of that organization and 35 percent saying they have an unfavorable impression. The strongest views on that group are equal in size, with 27 percent saying they have a "very favorable" opinion of the organization and 27 percent saying they have a "very unfavorable" opinion.

"Over 50 percent have strong views of Planned Parenthood, and they're split down the middle," Shaw said.

Henson contrasts the issue with another question in the survey about voter support for anti-tax pledges. Those are very popular with conservatives and much less so with other groups. But in Republican primaries where those voters are most important, those pledges can boost candidates.

Planned Parenthood is much more popular with Democrats than with Republicans; four of five Democrats registered a favorable opinion, with no discernible gender gap. Among Republican men, 76 percent have an unfavorable opinion of the group; among Republican women, 57 percent have an unfavorable opinion (13 percent of Republican men and 24 percent of Republican women had favorable opinions). More than half of female voters who identify themselves as independents — 56 percent — have a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood, while 11 percent were unfavorable. More than half of the male independents — 56 percent — had an unfavorable opinion; 24 percent had a favorable opinion.

.

Should insurance companies be required to cover the costs of birth control for women? Almost half of Texans, 49 percent, said yes, while 43 percent oppose that idea. The cross-tabulations of those results show significant lines of disagreement. Women favor the idea; men don't. Liberals favor it; conservatives don't. Minorities favor it; Anglos don't.

Medically assisted suicide — doctors prescribing lethal doses of drugs for terminally ill patients — would be okay with 45 percent of likely voters in Texas, while 34 percent disapprove of that idea.

The UT/TT internet survey of 800 Texas voters was conducted May 7-13 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percentage points. The numbers in the charts might not add exactly to 100 percent, because of rounding. And "likely voters" were defined as those who indicated they were "somewhat" or "extremely" interested in politics and who voted in "every" or "almost every" election in recent years.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.