Tax pledges don't appeal to everyone, but they appeal strongly to the most conservative Texans, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.
Just over a third of those polled — 36 percent — agreed that "candidates should pledge not to raise taxes before the primary elections." But 47 percent went the other way, agreeing that "candidates should not make pledges before the fiscal situation is clear.
The numbers behind those numbers, however, are revealing: The split illustrates the divide between those who identify themselves as conservatives and those who don't. Voters who identified themselves as Democrats were strongly against anti-tax pledges like the one promoted recently by Gov. Rick Perry, with 70 percent saying candidates shouldn't sign up. Voters who identify with the GOP were slightly in favor, with 48 percent saying candidates should sign and 41 percent saying they shouldn't. Voters who identify with the Tea Party over the other two parties — just fewer than a fifth of those polled — were strongly in favor: 60 percent said candidates should sign the pledges, and 37 percent said they shouldn't.
"This gives us very clear insight into where the politics meets the policy," said poll co-director Jim Henson, who teaches government at the University of Texas at Austin and runs the Texas Politics Project. "This is where the votes are."
Henson said the issue appeals most to the more energetic part of the Republican Party — the Tea Partiers and the ideological conservatives — that is in charge of the party that's running the state. "This is the place to go for a Republican political entrepreneur," he said. "There's a big intersection here."
Texans continue to worry more about the state of the nation than the state of the state, and they still list economic issues at the top of their concerns. Most Texans continue to believe the country is on the wrong track, with 61 percent saying so and only 25 percent saying things are heading in the right direction. They're more content at the state level, with 42 percent saying the state is on the wrong track and 38 percent saying it's moving in the right direction.
Two in five voters said the national economy is worse than it was a year ago, while 29 percent said it's about the same and 28 percent said it has improved. Almost half said their family's economic situation is unchanged from a year ago, while 19 percent said it has improved, and 32 percent said they are worse off — including 13 percent who said they are "a lot worse off."
"It could be a lot worse — there's a bias for picking the wrong track," said Daron Shaw, a UT-Austin government professor and co-director of the poll. That in itself isn't a red flag, he said. But the number of voters saying their economic situation is worse could be.
"One in three saying they're worse off — this is still going to be a dominant issue in the elections," he said.
The economy continues to lead the list of most important problems facing the country. It's the top item on the national list, followed by related issues: federal spending and the national debt and unemployment and jobs.
At the state level, voters put a string of issues into a virtual five-way tie, including immigration, the economy, unemployment and jobs, border security and education.
Political corruption and leadership — turned up as the top problem for 10 percent of the voters on both the national and state lists. On the federal level, Henson said, Democrats hold the White House and Republicans were most likely to select leadership and corruption as a big problem. On the state level, where Republicans are in power, Democrats were most likely to choose it.
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. Questions asked only of Republican or Democratic voters have larger margins of error, as indicated. 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.
Tomorrow's poll: What voters think about various policy issues.