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University of Texas/Texas Tribune Polls

Support for background checks on all gun sales remains high, UT/TT Poll finds

Texans are divided about whether more people carrying guns would make the U.S. safer, but a large majority favors expanding mental health and criminal background checks on gun sales, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

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A large majority of Texans favor mental health and criminal background checks on all gun sales, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Such checks, “including at gun shows and for private sales,” have the support of 79% of Texas voters; 61% said they “strongly support” background checks. Democrats (91%) were more likely than Republicans (68%) to favor more scrutiny of gun buyers.

Voters were split, however, on whether the country would be safer if more people carried guns — and the partisan differences were striking. Overall, 37% said more guns would make the country more safe, 39% said it would be less safe, and 16% said more guns would have no impact on safety. Among Democrats, 72% said more guns would make the country less safe; among Republicans, 67% said more people carrying guns would increase safety. Men were more likely (46%-36%) to find safety in more guns; more women than not (29%-42%) thought more guns would make the U.S. less safe.

“This is more evidence that there are far fewer obstacles in overall public opinion to extending background checks than you would think from the rhetoric of gun advocates,” said James Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

Health care

A majority of Texas voters, 56%, are not satisfied with the health care system in the U.S., and they differ considerably about what to do about it.

“I think there’s a little something for everyone here,” said Daron Shaw, a UT-Austin government professor and co-director of the poll. “There are elements of Obamacare that are popular. ... The popular parts have come to define Obamacare. But that overstates the extent to which the entire program has made people feel better about the health care system.”

The current health care system, “in which people get their health insurance from private employers, but some people have no insurance,” is the preference of 46% of voters. A universal health insurance program, “in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that’s run by the government and financed by taxpayers,” is the preference of 41% of Texas voters.

Those who favored the universal health care system — a major point of debate in the Democratic presidential primary race — were asked whether they would still be in favor if that eliminated all private health insurance. While 67% said yes, 18% — almost one voter in five — said they were opposed to getting rid of private insurance.

“The share of Texans who are in favor of universal health is higher than people generally expect,” said Joshua Blank, research director for the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “The share of those who want universal but would get rid of insurance is also high. But there are about 20% who would oppose if it got rid of private health insurance. That’s the danger area for Democrats."

Income inequality

Only 21% of Texas voters don’t think income inequality is a problem, but there is much disagreement — largely along partisan lines — about whether it’s a major or a minor problem. Among Democrats, 77% said income inequality is a major problem; among Republicans, that’s just 17%. And while only 3% of Democrats said it is not a problem, 40% of Republicans took that position.

And what should be done? More differences. Overall, 39% of Texas voters said the government should be more involved in “reducing income inequality between the rich and poor,” 11% said it should be about as involved as it is, 11% said it should be less involved, and 26% said the government should not be involved at all. More intervention was the preference of 68% of Democrats, while 48% of Republicans said the government should not be involved at all, and another 15% said it should be less involved than it currently is.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Jan. 31 to Feb. 9 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points, and an overall margin of error of +/- 4.09 percentage points for Democratic trial ballots. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100% because of rounding.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin 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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