For all of the boasting from business and political leaders about how fast the state is growing, many Texas voters have their concerns about whether getting bigger or more diverse is a good thing, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. And on that and other questions, their differences often match their party preferences.
While 39% of voters think the state’s population growth is good for the state, 34% think it’s bad for Texas and 27% don’t have an opinion on that question. And on balance, Republicans have more misgivings than Democrats, the poll found. Among Democratic voters, 47% said the state’s growth has been good for Texas, and 23% percent said it has been bad. Among Republicans, the numbers flip, with 34% praising the growth and 43% saying growth has been bad for the state.
But party wasn’t the only difference. Among women, 35% were pro-growth, and 34% think it’s bad for the state. Men were more likely to say growth was good (45%) than bad (34%). Republican women were notably skeptical, with 28% saying growth has been good for the state and 46% saying it’s been bad.
“Women are more likely to say they’re unsure,” said Joshua Blank, manager of polling and research for the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. Nearly a third (31%) of women said they don’t have an opinion, compared to 23% of men.
The state’s increasing racial and ethnic diversity is a cause for optimism, according to 44% of the voters — and a cause for pessimism, according to 33%. Again, it depends on who is talking, and the partisan differences are strong: 67% of Democrats said rising diversity is a cause for optimism; among Republicans, 28% agreed with that, while 44% said the state’s increasing ethnic and racial diversity is cause for concern. Independent voters were split on the question: 33% optimistic, 36% pessimistic.
Trump, trade and tariffs
Overall, more Texas voters than not approve of President Donald Trump’s handling of economic, trade and foreign affairs, but only on his handling of the economy does that support come from more than half of the voters. Approval and disapproval of his policies appear relatively close, though more voters approve of the president’s work than disapprove. But the overall numbers cloak big partisan differences. His numbers on handling of the economy are driven by strong support among Republicans, 90% of whom gave the president good marks. Among Democrats, only 11% approve of Trump’s economic record, while 76% do not.
That Republican support runs through approving responses to the president’s handling of trade negotiations (81%), immigration and border security (85%), foreign relations (83%) and taxes (84%). Democrats couldn’t disagree more, disapproving — with equivalent intensity — of Trump’s handling of trade negotiations (86%), immigration and border security (86%), foreign relations (85%) and taxes (82%).
Trump’s proposal to put a tariff on goods imported from Mexico won approval from Republicans (74%) and disapproval from Democrats (76%). Overall, Texas voters were split 43% to 42% on that question. That tariff proposal — which was settled after pushback from Republican leaders and others inside and outside of Congress — would have been bad for the Texas economy, according to 49% of Texas voters. And Republican voters split evenly, with 27% saying it would hurt the economy and the same number saying it would be good for Texas. Only 8% of Democrats and 17% of independent voters said tariffs would help the economy, while 76% of Democrats and 46% of independents said it would hurt.
The Republican sentiment revealed in the poll illustrates a dilemma that faced GOP policymakers, who were caught between their voters’ current support for tariffs and those voters’ concerns about the economic effects, said James Henson, who runs the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin and co-directs the poll.
“In this particular circumstance, the linkage of immigration and trade and the Mexico thing reveals how people don’t have well-developed, deeply rooted attitudes about trade,” Henson said. “This is why the Republican elites were panicked about the trade thing. They couldn’t fight it on the front end, and they were going to have to pay for it on the back end.”
But even with those misgivings from voters, many Texans believe tariffs would be effective “at making the Mexican government do more to prevent migrants from coming to the United States.” In spite of their other reservations, 70% of Republicans said they support that sentiment. Among Democrats, 13% said tariffs would be effective, and 28% of independent voters agreed with that assessment.
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from May 31-June 9 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. 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.