UT/Texas Policy Project Poll: Texans’ attitudes toward population growth and the future of the state

AUSTIN, Texas — After two decades of explosive population growth in Texas and amid growing economic disruption, a majority of Texans said the state was heading in the wrong direction, and more viewed the state’s dramatic population growth as bad for Texas, according to a new Politics Project Poll from the University of Texas at Austin/Texas.

The survey found that a majority of Texas voters now view the state’s sustained population growth either negatively or with uncertainty. By a wide margin, Texans said they were aware of the state’s recent population growth. However, only 34% considered the growth to be good for the state, while 40% said it had been bad for the state, with the remaining voters unable to express an opinion, positive or negative.

Skepticism about the effects of the state’s growing population is part of a larger set of bleak assessments. National economic problems reach Texas: 43% of voters say their family’s economic situation is worse than last year. Of the nearly 9 in 10 Texans who have noticed a price hike, 55% say the price hikes have had a major impact on their current household finances. All of these factors converge in the finding that 51% of Texans say the state is on the wrong track, and 66% say the country is headed in the same, wrong direction.

“Despite frequent reminders from state leaders about people and businesses moving to Texas, there are signs that many Texans are now seeing the downsides of this growth,” said James Henson, executive director of Texas Politics. UT Austin Project and founding co-director of the Survey Project. “This is the first time we’ve seen negative views outweigh positive assessments of the impact of growth on the state.”

The poll was conducted April 14-22 among 1,200 registered voters in Texas and has a margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points for the full sample.

The poll also checked the state of the Texas gubernatorial race, where incumbent Governor Greg Abbott is being challenged by former Democratic U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke. Abbott led O’Rourke 48% to 37% among the poll’s sample of registered voters, with 16% uncommitted.

“Support for Abbott and O’Rourke has remained consistent among major voter groups in the electorate, looking back over the last three UT surveys,” said Joshua Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project. “If O’Rourke is to tighten the race with Abbott over the next seven months, he will need to improve his standing among independent, Hispanic and suburban voters relative to the governor.”

Border security and immigration issues continue to dominate public opinion. Texans rate immigration and border security as the state’s top priority (20% border security; 14% immigration), driven primarily by the opinions of Republican voters, of whom 37% choose security borders and 24% immigration as the most important issues facing the state. — compared to just 4% of Democrats.

“Since the advent of this survey in 2007, Texans have consistently cited immigration and border security as a top concern,” said Daron Shaw, co-founder of the UT poll and professor of government. “But Lone Star voters are split on what to do. They want to secure the border, but they also want something done for the undocumented people who are here. Above all, Texans are practical; they want solutions, not sound bites.

As the state spends about $4 billion on border security in the current biennium, the survey finds Texans are split on the state’s growing spending. The majority, 32%, said the state is spending too little on border security, again driven by the views of Republican voters. Fifty-one percent of Republicans said the state is still spending too little, 30 percent say the state is spending too much, and 20 percent say the state is spending the right amount on border security.

“Despite the significant increase in state resources, both human and financial, to deal with the situation at the Texas-Mexico border, there is no indication that voter preferences for border security spending are changing. “Blank said. “Democrats view increased spending with skepticism, and Republican voters across the state continue to demand more.”

The poll also included in-depth questions on a range of political topics, including COVID-19, public safety, K-12 education and abortion. When asked, “Do you support or oppose an automatic ban on all abortions in Texas if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. WadeA majority of Texas voters, 56%, continue to oppose or strongly oppose such a ban (12% and 42%, respectively), while 35% expressed support.

Full poll results are available on the Texas Politics Project’s latest poll page.