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UT/TT Poll: Texans Split on In-State Tuition for Immigrants

Texans are divided along partisan lines over the state's policy offering in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants educated in Texas high schools, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

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In-state tuition for undocumented immigrants continues to split Texas voters on decidedly partisan lines, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Under current state law, undocumented immigrants pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities if they have lived in the state for three years, graduated from Texas high schools, applied for U.S. citizenship and have the grades and scores to win admission to those schools.

Overall, it looks like the electorate is deadlocked on that policy, with 42 percent saying those students should continue to pay lower in-state tuition and 43 percent saying they should pay higher out-of-state rates.

The partisan differences, however, are striking: 67 percent of Democrats think the students should pay in-state rates; 75 percent of Tea Party Republicans think they should pay out-of-state rates; and non-Tea Party Republicans fall in between, with 51 percent saying the students should pay out-of-state rates and 35 percent saying in-state tuition should apply.

It breaks somewhat along ideological lines,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor of government at UT-Austin. “I still think a lot of this is something the parties haven’t quite figured out.”

Anglos were more likely to favor out-of-state rates by 50 percent to 39 percent. But the in-state rates fall short of winning a majority of African-Americans (46 percent) or of Hispanics (47 percent). Fifty-five percent of urban voters favor the in-state rates, while the same percentage of rural voters favor out-of-state. In the suburbs, 47 percent favor out-of-state tuition for those students and 39 percent said they should pay in-state tuition.

Border security and immigration were the top two items on voters’ list of the most important issues facing Texas, and funding for border security operations was in the No. 2 spot on their list of top priorities for the Legislature in the UT/TT Poll.

“Immigration remains a fundamentally partisan issue, and it was [former Gov.] Rick Perry who first found a really effective way to use border security to talk about this,” said poll co-director Jim Henson, who also directs the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin.

The level of concern over those issues is high, and so is political attention. Even so, the U.S. Border Patrol, which bears much of the responsibility for enforcing immigration laws, gets generally favorable marks, with 53 percent giving it “very” or “somewhat” favorable marks and only 19 percent grading it poorly. A quarter said they had a neutral view of the agency.

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A majority of Texas voters — 59 percent — agreed that undocumented immigrants currently living in this country should be deported. A third of voters strongly agreed with that statement. Another 35 percent disagreed, 19 percent of them strongly. Those numbers are largely the same as findings from the October 2014 UT/TT Poll.

Only 4 percent of Texas voters believe there is no discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. Meanwhile, 21 percent believe there is “a great deal” of discrimination, 19 percent said there is “a lot,” 25 percent said there is “a moderate amount” and 29 percent said there is “a little” discrimination in the country.

Among black voters, 77 percent said either that there is a great deal or a lot of discrimination; 51 percent of Hispanics agreed, as did 30 percent of Anglos.

The partisan numbers on that question somewhat mirror the makeups of the parties, but not altogether. Among Democrats, 69 percent said there is either a great deal or a lot of discrimination. Among non-Tea Party Republicans, 73 percent said either that there is a moderate amount or a little discrimination. And among Tea Party Republicans, 73 percent said either that there is a little discrimination or none at all.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Feb. 6 to Feb. 15 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.

This is one of several stories on the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Monday: Presidential primaries and the mood of the state. Tuesday: Guns, criminal justice, marijuana and the death penalty. Wednesday: Taxes and transportation. Thursday: Government and voter priorities. Also today: Education.

Disclosure: UT-Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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