Many groups face discrimination in the U.S., Texas voters say, but they don’t always agree on who faces it most, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
And in the wake of months of gun violence, Texans remain supportive of looser restrictions on where and when people can carry handguns in the state, the poll found.
Transgender people, Muslims, gays and lesbians, and African-Americans — in that order — face the most discrimination, Texas voters say. They’re followed, in order, by Hispanics, women, Christians, Asians, whites and men.
But the differences from one group of respondents to another were very different.
“There is an enormous divide here,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
While 72 percent of all respondents said there is either “a lot” or “some” discrimination against Muslims in the U.S., only 49 percent of voters who identified themselves as Tea Party Republicans thought so. And 70 percent of all respondents said gays and lesbians face discrimination, but only 45 percent of Tea Party Republicans and 45 percent of Hispanics thought so.
“These results confirm what we see in the headlines around race and policing, affirmative action, around gay marriage — that there is a real difference in perception about discrimination,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “It’s related to political ideology and political partisanship.”
More than half of respondents — 52 percent — said Christians face discrimination, a view shared by 68 percent of Republicans and only 30 percent of Democrats, by 60 percent of registered voters over 65 years of age and only 39 percent of voters under 30.
While 39 percent of male voters said men are discriminated against, only 18 percent of female voters agreed. The men were split 49 percent to 48 percent on whether women face discrimination; 67 percent of the women said they do.
Rural voters (55 percent) and Tea Party Republicans (62 percent) said that white people are discriminated against in the U.S. Only 40 percent of all voters thought so.
“If you look at self-identified conservatives, they also rank Christians first among groups that are most discriminated against,” Henson said. “More conservatives think that whites experience discrimination than think that blacks, Hispanics and women experience discrimination.”
“It certainly looks different on the other side of the aisle,” he added. “Among Democrats, three groups are indistinguishable in the numbers: African-Americans, gays and lesbians, and Muslims. It’s a strikingly different view of the world depending on what political ideology and party you’re looking at.”
Texas lawmakers voted in the recently completed legislative session to allow Texans with licenses to openly carry their handguns, a policy decision that finds favor with 52 percent of the state’s registered voters; 43 percent oppose that law. Those overall numbers hide big partisan differences: 75 percent of Republicans favor open carry while 73 percent of Democrats oppose it. The genders are split, too: 60 percent of men favor open carry while only 45 percent of women do.
“This strikes me as being one of those issues where people assume that it is Republicans in particular who are carrying water for this, that they are extremists,” Shaw said of Democrats and other opponents of the policy. “But the people who are being alienated by their position are just not supporters of theirs.” For those Republican politicians, he said, “Where’s the big downside?”
Lawmakers also decided to allow concealed handguns on state college and university campuses, so long as the people carrying them are licensed. They also decided the schools should be able to prohibit handguns in some buildings and areas on their campuses.
That policy appears to fit nicely with voter opinion. While 37 percent of voters are against campus carry, 25 percent would allow handguns anywhere on campus, and another 26 percent would allow it if the schools could determine whether they should be allowed.
“You have a good chunk of support for the solution that was arrived at, where campuses have a lot of influence over how this is implemented,” Henson said. “Democrats are pretty much against it. The real split is among Republicans. And like so many things, once you crack open the Republicans, the core support is among Tea Party Republicans.”
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from June 5 to June 14 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.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.