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University of Texas/Texas Tribune Polls

Guns are popular with Texans, and so are “red flag” laws, says UT/TT Poll

A strong majority of Texans told the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll that judges should be allowed to temporarily take guns away from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

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“Red flag” laws might be controversial in the Legislature, but Texas voters would support allowing courts “to require a person determined to be a risk to themselves or others to temporarily surrender guns in their possession,” according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Overall, 72 percent of voters said they “strongly” or “somewhat” support such laws, while 18 percent oppose them. The policy has the support of substantial majorities of voters, regardless of party, race, gender or education, including 88 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of independents.

At the same time, just under half of Texas voters — driven by Democrats — would make gun laws stricter. Thirty percent would leave those laws as they are, and 17 percent would make gun laws less strict.

“Reflexively, there is this Second Amendment culture that you would expect here in Texas,” said Josh Blank, manager of polling and research for the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “But when we ask about specific policy proposals — whether that’s universal background checks, limiting the ability to buy high-capacity magazines or, in this case, a red flag law — you find much more support than you do for new gun restrictions writ large.”

Republican voters were most likely to say gun laws should be left as they are (48 percent), while 29 percent would make them less strict and only 19 percent would toughen them. Among independent voters, 45 percent would make the laws stricter, 23 percent would make them more lenient and 29 percent would leave them be.

Most Democrats (83 percent) would make gun laws more strict, while only 11 percent would leave them as they are and only 3 percent would make them less strict.

“For Republicans, it’s mostly putting your money where your mouth is on this issue. You have a right, but with that right comes an obligation to live up to your end of the bargain. And if you don’t, you lose that right,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a government professor at UT-Austin. “I do think Republicans think these shooting issues are primarily mental health issues and not gun-law issues. This follows the logic of that position.”

Vaccinations, sick leave, abortion and legalized marijuana

The vast majority of voters support required vaccinations for Texas children, but it’s not unanimous. Overall, 78 percent of voters say vaccinations for diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough should be required. That includes 86 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independent voters. Not everyone is on board: 14 percent of voters say government should not require those shots, including 6 percent of Democrats, 18 percent of Republicans and 23 percent of independents.

On another public health issue, 71 percent of Texas voters believe employers should be required to offer paid sick leave to their employees. That issue has percolated up to the Legislature, where some lawmakers say Texas cities overstepped their authority in requiring paid sick leave. Republican voters (56 percent) favor the requirement, but not as much as Democrats do (89 percent).

“There are some things that a large number of Texans, including big chunks of Republicans, want government to do — and they are usually around areas like public safety and public health,” said Jim Henson, head of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin and co-director of the poll.

About two in five voters (41 percent) say the state’s laws restricting abortion should be more strict, a group that includes 66 percent of Republicans but only 15 percent of Democrats. A third of voters would loosen restrictions in state law; 58 percent of Democrats and 9 percent of Republicans held that view. Twenty percent of voters would leave the state’s abortion laws as they are, and 18 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of Republicans are in that group.

The poll found little gender difference in the answers. Among women, 40 percent would make the laws stricter, 33 percent would loosen restrictions and 19 percent would leave the laws alone. The numbers for men were a near match: 41 percent for stricter laws, 30 percent for looser ones and 21 percent for the status quo.

A small majority of Texans would support legalizing marijuana for any use, while only 20 percent don’t think it should be legal for any use at all. Public sentiment in Texas has moved a bit: In a February 2015 UT/TT Poll, 42 percent favored legalization, while 24 percent were against any legal use of the drug. At that time, 58 percent said that it should never be allowed or be allowed only for medical use.

There are political differences — 60 percent of Republicans either oppose legal pot altogether (27 percent) or for medical purposes only (33 percent), while 68 percent of Democrats would allow possession of small amounts (37 percent) or any amounts (31 percent) for any use.

“It does show widespread support for expanding uses of medical marijuana,” Henson said. “I’d expect to see more conversation about decriminalization than about legalization” based on these results. “That’s where people seem to be pausing.”

But there are also some differences among urban, suburban and rural voters in Texas. A small majority of urban voters (53 percent) would legalize marijuana for any use, a position shared by 57 percent of suburban voters but only 47 percent of the state’s rural voters.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Feb. 15-24 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.

The University of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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