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With the Texas-Mexico border moving to center stage in national politics, Texas voters consider immigration and border security the most important problems facing the state, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
Combined, those topics are the top state-level concerns of 34% of all Texas voters, and of 59% of Republican voters in the state, the poll found.
Asked about the most important problems facing the United States, 16% of Texas voters chose political corruption/leadership, while 14% chose either immigration or border security. Another 8% chose the COVID-19 pandemic as the biggest threat.
The state's increasing racial and ethnic diversity is a cause for optimism, according to 37% of voters, down from the 48% who made the same assessment in a UT/TT Poll a year ago. It's a cause for concern, according to 34% of all voters, up slightly from the 31% with that sentiment a year earlier. Among Democrats, 55% called increasing diversity a cause for optimism, a view shared by 24% of Republicans. And while 28% of Democrats called increasing diversity a cause for concern, 40% of Republican voters did so.
Gov. Greg Abbott has pushed immigration and border security to the forefront of his concerns this year. The Republican, who is running for reelection next year, has repeatedly criticized President Joe Biden for the policies he’s pushed since his term began early this year and promised to end what Abbott describes as a Biden-created "border crisis" by finishing the wall that former President Donald Trump was trying to build between the U.S. and Mexico
In the April UT/TT Poll, 16% of voters identified immigration and border security combined as their top concerns and another 16% felt the pandemic was of utmost importance.
Among Republican voters, 25% named border security as the most important problems facing the country — significant, but not as high as the strong majority who listed those as the top problems facing Texas.
“It reflects that this is becoming more of a Republican issue,” Joshua Blank, research director for the Texas Politics Project.
This also reflects UT/TT polling from April that showed 39% of Texas voters felt there are “too many” legal immigrants, and 51% felt that undocumented immigrants should be deported.
Most Texas voters, 57%, disapprove of Biden’s handling of border security and immigration. He has touted his immigration policies as a more humane approach to Trump’s policies.
“They can’t keep this issue at arms length, because it’s causing them problems,” Blank said.
Among Republican voters, 89% disapprove of Biden’s handling of border issues. While 56% of Democrats said they approve of his policies, 18% disapproved.
That is a stark difference from the ratings for Abbott: only 37% disapprove of his border policies and 46% approve. Abbott announced his proposal to continue building a border wall, with state and donated funds, as the current poll entered the field.
Texas and national economies
Sentiment on whether the country is on the right track has not changed from last month’s poll, with 57% of voters saying that the country is headed in the wrong direction.
This was especially prominent among Republicans, with 81% saying the U.S. is on the wrong track. Approximately 59% of Independent voters shared that view.
But when talking about the economy, 34% said the country is better off than it was a year ago. This sentiment was high among Democrats, with 62% holding this view.
The state's economy is better than a year ago, according to 31% of voters; 28% said it's worse and 32% said it's about the same. Urban voters had more favorable assessments of the state’s economic situation than voters in suburban and rural Texas.
“It may just point to the fact that the economic recovery of COVID is just more apparent in these areas,” Blank said.
And almost half of voters — 49% — said they and their families are in about the same shape economically as they were a year ago. The rest were divided almost evenly between those who are better off, 23%, and those who said they are worse off than a year ago, 25%.
Takes on the economy continue to be guided by voters' political leanings, with Biden stepping into office earlier this year. Although 40% of voters approve of Biden's handling of the economy, 47% disapprove. The partisan split is deep: 82% of Democrats approve of Biden's economic actions, while 84% of Republicans disapprove.
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from June 10-21 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points.
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.