Texas voters remain concerned about the economy and immigration, and they continue to believe the state is moving in the right direction while the country is on the wrong track, according to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
The economy leads the list of most important problems facing the country, at 24 percent, followed by federal spending/national debt at 19 percent and political corruption/leadership, at 11 percent. Those three items together accounted for more than half of the responses to that question.
Immigration, at 15 percent, and border security, at 13 percent, lead the state list, followed by unemployment/jobs, the economy and education. Those rankings have a partisan undertow. Republicans were more likely to list immigration and border security as problems. Democrats were more likely to list political corruption/leadership and education as the state’s top problems.
“For about a quarter of Republicans in the poll, immigration is still the biggest problem facing the state,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “Democrats don’t share those perceptions. This is going to have implications for how state leaders position themselves on immigration.”
The answers also varied by race: Black and Hispanic voters listed the economy and jobs as the top state issues, while white voters listed immigration and border security as their top concerns.
"On the national stuff, it’s the first time I think I’ve seen federal spending and national debt at one-fifth. That’s a really strong number," said Daron Shaw, c0-director of the poll and a government professor at UT-Austin. "What is clear is that people simply want their leaders to solve the problem and start making progress on the problem. They’ll talk about different things depending on their constituents, but it’s not clear what they ought to be saying. The public wants the government to perform. They’re not delivering the goods on basic questions where their constituents are demanding action."
"The budget deficit issue is a marker issue for governmental incompetence," he said.
Three out of five Texas voters said the U.S. is on the wrong track, while 29 percent said the country is moving in the right direction. Voters are much happier with the direction of the state, with 45 percent saying things are headed in the right direction and 39 percent saying things are headed off on the wrong track.
That last sentiment showed up again when voters were asked whether state government in Texas is generally a good model for other states to follow: 60 percent said it is, and 31 percent said it is not.
The numbers flip when run though a partisan screen. While 64 percent of Democrats said the country is going in the right direction, 95 percent of Republicans said it was on the wrong track. And 68 percent of Republicans said Texas is going in the right direction, while 61 percent of Democrats said the state is on the wrong track.
Congress remains remarkably unpopular with Texas voters. Only 3 percent approve strongly of the job Congress is doing, and only 11 percent approve somewhat. Another 12 percent neither approve nor disapprove, and the rest is negative: 23 percent somewhat disapprove of federal legislators’ work, and 48 percent disapprove strongly. Unlike some of the other results, the antipathy toward federal lawmakers crosses partisan lines.
“What can you say about Congress?” Henson asked. “You see Congress in double digits, at all, and you’re surprised. It’s the least respected political institution in the state right now, and that’s right in line with the rest of the country.”
National and state executives nearly glow by comparison. President Obama gets favorable marks from 39 percent and unfavorable marks from 53 percent. But the people who “strongly disapprove” of the job he’s doing account for 46 percent of the total, while 21 percent strongly approve.
Gov. Rick Perry wins high marks from 41 percent and low marks from 40 percent. As with the president, his ardent foes outnumber his ardent supporters: 28 percent strongly disapprove of the job the governor is doing, while 17 percent strongly approve.
“The governor is still in a pretty strong position,” Henson said. “That said, there’s not overwhelming support for him. If you compare his numbers to Obama’s, they don’t like Perry with nearly the same certitude that they disapprove of President Obama.”
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 voters was conducted Feb. 14-24, 2013, and has a margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Numbers in the charts might not add up to 100 percent, due to rounding.
This is the third day of stories on the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Also: see today’s related story on social issues. Yesterday: guns in Texas. Tomorrow: education, the state budget and water.