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The Brief: Feb. 23, 2012

The economy dominates Texans' list of national concerns, but when it comes to problems at home, immigration still reigns.

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The Big Conversation:

The economy dominates Texans' list of national concerns, but when it comes to problems at home, immigration still reigns.

According to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, the economy ranks as the top national problem for 30 percent of Texans. Seventeen percent named federal spending and the national debt, 11 percent said political corruption and leadership, and 10 percent said unemployment and jobs.

At the state level, 28 percent named immigration and border security, 22 percent said the economy and jobs, and education and political corruption each got 8 percent.

"I continue to be amazed at the extent to which Texans hold border security and immigration above jobs and the economy," said Daron Shaw, the poll's co-director and a government professor at UT-Austin.

The same percentage of Texans supported and opposed a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the country, though 29 percent strongly opposed such reform, and 20 percent strongly supported it.

"Broadly, Texas is surprisingly moderate in the big-picture issues like pathways to citizenship, but can still convey a kind of rock-ribbed conservatism when it comes to benefits or to anything that touches on law and order," said Jim Henson, who co-directs the poll with Shaw and heads the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin, where he also teaches government.

Respondents were also asked about issues like abortion, the death penalty, gay marriage and civil unions, doctor-assisted suicide and redistricting. Some choice stats: 38 percent said abortion should always be legal, 77 percent said they favor the death penalty and 31 percent said they support gay marriage.


  • New records show that overtime pay for the police officers who protect Rick Perry skyrocketed while the governor and his family were out on the presidential campaign trail, as the Tribune's Jay Root reports today. The overtime pay has increased the security costs far beyond the amounts released by the Texas Department of Public Safety, the agency charged with protecting the governor and his family.
  • U.S. Senate candidate Craig James touts Rick Santorum — and his own endorsement of Santorum — in a new ad. "I'm committed to Rick Santorum for president," James says in the ad. "Let me repeat that: I'm committed to Rick Santorum for president." James endorsed the former Pennsylvania senator earlier this month and this week played up a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showing Santorum with a huge lead over his GOP opponents in Texas.
  • Ron Paul took square aim at Rick Santorum in Wednesday night's CNN debate in Arizona, hitting the front-runner of the moment on issues like earmark spending and Planned Parenthood funding. “If you voted for Planned Parenthood like the senator has, you voted for birth control pills,” Paul said. “And you literally, because funds are fungible, you literally vote for abortions because Planned Parenthood gets the money.” Santorum, who has risen significantly in polls ahead of next week's Michigan and Arizona primaries, spent much of the night on defense, stumbling at times while attempting to explain his record. Meanwhile, Rick Perry, in the spin room for Newt Gingrich, said Gingrich "knocked it out of the park" and praised his plan for energy independence, as The Dallas Morning News reports.

“I find it really fascinating that, when people are running for office, they’re really fiscally conservative. When they’re in office, they do something different.”Ron Paul to Rick Santorum at Wednesday night's CNN debate


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