Most Texas voters believe local law enforcement should be required to cooperate with immigration authorities and that police should have the right to question the immigration status of the people they stop, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
Requiring local cooperation with immigration officials is the more popular of the two ideas, but it divides voters on party and ethnic lines. Where 85 percent of Republicans support that requirement, only 27 percent of Democrats do. White and black voters support it, though by dramatically different margins — 67 percent supportive to 26 percent opposed among whites, and 47 percent to 37 percent among blacks. Among Hispanic voters, 39 percent support required cooperation, and 48 percent oppose it. More opponents and supports felt "strongly" about their positions than not.
“There aren’t too many people who remain somewhat opposed or somewhat supportive,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. “To most people, it’s not complicated. It’s the mix of immigration plus law enforcement.”
Overall support for the “show your papers” provision — ensuring that police officers have the right to question a person’s immigration status during a legal detainment or arrest — is softer, but divided along similar lines.
Three-quarters of Democrats oppose that provision, while 86 percent of Republicans support it. Most Hispanic voters (59 percent) and black voters (57 percent) oppose the provision. Most white voters (64 percent) support it.
“Ten years ago, you saw elected Republican officials looking to occupy that sweet spot where they could talk about these issues without fundamentally alienating Democrats,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin and co-director of the poll. “I don’t think that concern was as evident in this latest [legislative] session.”
Immigration is one of several issues that raised questions of whether state or local laws should prevail in Texas during the recent legislative session. Several of them will be on the plate during the special session this summer.
Property taxes will be near the top of the list. The state itself is barred from levying property taxes, but 27 percent of Texans said the state is most responsible for property taxes. Most — 60 percent — point to local governments and 4 percent point to the federal government, which also doesn’t levy those taxes.
Lawmakers locked up over different versions of legislation that would limit the extent to which local governments can raise property taxes. While the Senate and the House couldn’t quite put that together during the regular session, 77 percent of Texas voters support state limits on local governments — 48 percent of them “strongly.” Only 14 percent oppose limits.
“You can get substantial bond packages to go through, even with the opposition to property taxes,” Shaw said. “There’s a deep suspicion of federal and state government, but they like targeted solutions.”
Democrats strongly oppose it, with 63 percent in favor. But Republicans really oppose it: 91 percent say limits are a good idea.
Reducing the state’s business margins tax — which most voters don’t pay — has the support of 45 percent of voters, while 26 percent oppose a cut. More than a quarter of the voters didn’t have an opinion about that proposal.
Finally, after a 10-year fight, the state has a law banning texting while driving. Voters don’t appear to be as conflicted about this as their political representatives: 86 percent of Texas voters favor the ban, and only 10 percent oppose it. The numbers didn’t vary much by party, race, gender or education. Texans appear to be united on that issue.
“The public has come to see distracted driving as a pretty clear safety hazard,” Henson said.
One more local issue caught more attention in the state Capitol than in most other parts of the state — voters in Austin chose to extend some of their taxicab regulations to ride-hailing companies. That prompted two of the biggest — Lyft and Uber — to pull up stakes. And it prompted the Legislature to pre-empt city regulations with less-stringent regulations of its own. That sits fine with Texas voters: 60 percent support statewide rules, while 21 percent oppose them.
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from June 2 to June 11 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. Earlier: Texans on President Trump and the Russia inquiries, the mood of the state and grades on top elected officials. Coming tomorrow: Texans’ views on voting and education issues.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin, Uber and Lyft have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.