New UT/Texas Politics Project Poll: As primary voting begins, Texans see a crisis on the border

POLL SUMMARY
CROSSTAB FILE

A majority of Texas voters support making it harder for migrants fleeing violence in their home countries to seek asylum in the U.S., while majorities also support many of the controversial measures undertaken by Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature in response to the situation at the southern border that have received significant national attention this winter, according to the February 2024 University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll. The 59% of Texas voters who favor making it harder for migrants fleeing violence in their home countries to seek asylum in the U.S. includes nearly three quarters of Republicans (71%) and nearly half of Democratic voters (48%). 

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categoryTotal
Strongly support33%
Somewhat support26%
Somewhat oppose16%
Strongly oppose16%
Don't know/No opinion10%

These attitudes are feeding widespread concern as waves of migrants overwhelm strained resources in the Texas-Mexico border region as the state continues to spend unprecedented sums on border enforcement measures: nearly half of Texas voters surveyed, 48%, think the number of migrants attempting to cross the U.S-Mexico border is “a crisis,” while another 23% consider it a “very serious problem, but not a crisis.” 

The results illustrate that while many Texas Democrats share in the widespread Republican concerns about the surge in migration on the U.S.-Mexico border, Democratic attitudes are generally less intense on the subject, and seemingly affected by the persistence and visibility of the problems on the Texas border: While three quarters of Republicans (74%) consider the number of migrants attempting to cross the border “a crisis” and another 11% consider it “a very serious problem,” the corresponding shares of Democrats are much smaller, with 20% evaluating the situation to be a crisis and 37% a very serious problem. Despite the differences in intensity, however, it’s notable that a clear majority of Democrats perceive a major issue on the Southern border. Nearly half of Republicans strongly support making it harder for migrants to seek asylum in the U.S. (48%), compared to 18% of Democrats who strongly support such a change. But here too, the poll found the plurality of Democrats supportive of more restrictive asylum laws overall (48%), in addition to overwhelming support among Republicans (71%) and majority support among independents (55%).

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
A crisis20%54%74%
A very serious problem, but not a crisis37%22%11%
A somewhat serious problem27%15%10%
Not much of a problem12%4%3%
Don't know/No opinion4%5%2%

STATE BORDER SECURITY POLICY ATTITUDES: Republican consensus meets increasingly divided – and concerned – Democrats 

Attitudes about specific state level policies to deal with the border follow a familiar pattern of virtual consensus among Republican voters on all but one of the most controversial policies put before them. (All of the results below are for self-identified Republicans only.)

While majorities or pluralities of Texas Democrats expressed opposition to each of those state policies, they are closely divided on many of the specifics. Near-equal shares support or oppose the deployment of additional state police and military resources to the border (44% support to 48% oppose), and a surprisingly large share are supportive of constructing and/or repairing physical barriers on the border (40% to 52% in opposition) given overwhelming opposition in the final years of the Trump presidency.

The state’s prevention of U.S. border patrol agents from accessing parts of the Texas-Mexico border is the most controversial of recent state policies: 41% of Texas voters supportive of this escalation in the conflict between Texas and the Federal Government and 44% opposed. This policy enjoyed the lowest level of support among Texas Republicans from among the policies tested, though still earning majority support (59%, with 28% opposed). The majority of Democrats, 62%, opposed preventing border patrol from accessing parts of the border, with 25% expressing support.

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CategoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Strongly support9%24%37%
Somewhat support16%8%22%
Somewhat oppose17%14%13%
Strongly oppose45%29%15%
Don't know/No opinion13%26%13%

Yet despite Democrats’ opposition to Texas’ challenge to the U.S. government on the border, the lopsidedness of Republican support combined with divided Democratic attitudes provides the foundation for majority support among all voters for five of the six measures tested.

Table: Overall support for state border security policies among Texas voters
(February 2024 UT/Texas politics Project Poll)
Policy Support Oppose Don't know
Deploying state policy/military 66% 27% 7%
Constructing/repairing walls on Texas/Mexico border 65% 28% 7%
Making it state crime for most undocumented immigrants to be in Texas 60% 33% 7%
Using buoys and barbed wire to deter migration 57% 36% 7%
Paying to bus migrants 55% 36% 9%
Preventing access by U.S. Border Patrol 41% 44% 15%
(Source: February 2024 University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll. Results for all respondents, N-1200 RV, MOE +/- 2.83%. Policy wording shortened in graphic - see summary document for exact wording of items.)

Partisan differences in attitudes toward border security policies have diminished somewhat with gradual shifts in Democrats’ views of the urgency of the increased numbers of migrants crossing or attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. But the persistence of higher levels of alarm and of support for stricter enforcement among Republicans reflects vast differences in views of illegal as well as legal immigration.

When Texas voters were asked whether they agree that “Undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States should be deported immediately,” 58% agreed compared to 37% who disagreed. The share supporting immediate, mass deportations included 80% of Republicans and 35% of Democrats. While 60% of Democrats disagreed, the share of Democrats agreeing is the highest since February 2016 and the fourth highest of the 19 UT/TxP polls that have included the question.

When asked, “Thinking about legal immigration, do you think the United States allows too many people to immigrate here from other countries, too few, or about the right amount,” 49% said “too many,” 28% “about the right amount,” and 14% said “too few” (9% didn’t know). About two-thirds of Republicans (68%) and a little more than a quarter of Democrats (28%) said there is too much legal immigration; 19% of Republicans and a plurality of Democrats (39%) said “about the right amount”; and 8% of Republicans and 20% of Democrats said the U.S. lets “too few” immigrate enter legally. The share of Democrats who said the U.S. is letting in too many legal immigrants has nearly doubled from 14% in February 2020.

2024 ELECTIONS: Allred close to avoiding run-off in Democratic Senate primary while partisans are sticking with their presidential candidates for now

U.S. Senate race: Allred on edge of avoiding run-off

In the most closely watched statewide contest of the 2024 primary elections in Texas, Congressman Colin Allred leads a crowded field of Democrats seeking to challenge incumbent Senator Ted Cruz, who faces only token opposition in the Republican primary as he seeks a third term in the U.S. Senate. Slightly more than half of potential Democratic primary voters, 52%, say they will be voting for Allred, within the margin of error of the 50% threshold necessary to avoid a run-off election in the March 6 primary. His closest competitor, State Senator Roland Gutierrez, was the choice of 14% of potential Democratic primary voters. Eight other candidates on the ballot each earned 5% support or less, while 18% chose “someone else.” The Democratic primary results reflect the preferences of 354 potential Democratic primary voters and have a margin of error of +/- 5.21%. The reported totals also include the results of a follow-up question nudging those who didn’t have a preference when initially asked.

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categoryTotal
Colin Allred52%
Roland Gutierrez14%
Mark Gonzalez5%
Meri Gomez3%
Steve J. Keough3%
Carl Oscar Sherman2%
Heli Rodriguez Prilliman1%
Thierry Tchenko1%
Aaron Arguijo0%
A. “Robert” Hassan0%
Someone else18%

While Colin Allred holds a commanding lead over all of his opponents and appears to be within striking distance of avoiding a run-off in a crowded field, many voters hold no opinion of either of the top two Democratic candidates, neither of whom have run for statewide office prior to the 2024 election. Among all Democratic voters, 50% view Allred favorably and 7% view him unfavorably, with the remaining 44% either expressing a neutral view (21%) or no opinion (23%). The share holding a favorable view of Gutierrez is smaller (37%), with 7% viewing him unfavorably; more than half of Democratic voters express neutral views (21%) or hold no opinion (36%) of the state senator. 

Adding to the usual uncertainty about the outcome of Texas primary elections, 40% of Allred supporters among the potential Democratic primary electorate say that they are still considering voting for another candidate, along with 50% of Gutierrez’s supporters.

The poll finds incumbent U.S. Senator Ted Cruz holding a commanding lead over token opposition as he remains broadly popular among his partisan base. Some have argued that Cruz may be vulnerable in November based on his accumulated record after two terms in the U.S. Senate and the enduring images of his trip to Cancun during the widespread power outages during Winter Storm Uri in 2021 — fueling reports that he is on long lists of Democrats’ Senate targets in 2024 (though he’s certainly not widely seen as “in trouble”). Like many elected officials in the latest poll, Cruz’s job approval numbers among Republican voters increased in the first UT/Texas Politics Project Poll of 2024, ticking up to 78% in February from 75% in December, and a 2023 low of 72% in October. Cruz’s highest job approval rating among Republicans in UT/TxP polling since narrowly winning reelection in 2018 was 85% in October 2020. His job approval among Republicans was last over 80% in December 2022. 

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SENCRUZApproveDisapproveNeither/Don't Know
Oct. 201575%12%14%
Feb. 201665%18%18%
Jun. 201660%21%20%
Oct. 201664%20%16%
Feb. 201767%13%20%
June 201770%13%18%
Oct. 201765%18%17%
Feb. 201882%12%15%
June 201874%9%18%
Oct. 201887%6%6%
Feb. 201983%7%10%
June 201981%7%12%
Oct. 201979%8%13%
Feb. 202080%10%11%
April 202081%6%14%
Jun. 202081%8%11%
Oct. 202085%8%7%
Feb. 202181%9%10%
Mar. 202178%12%10%
Apr. 202180%13%8%
June 202179%10%10%
Aug. 202177%10%13%
Oct. 202182%6%11%
Feb. 202270%12%18%
Apr. 202278%11%11%
June 202275%11%14%
Aug. 202278%11%11%
Oct. 202280%8%11%
Dec.202282%9%8%
Feb. 202378%10%13%
Apr. 202378%11%11%
June 202377%10%13%
Aug. 202375%12%12%
Oct. 202372%12%16%
Dec. 202375%11%14%
Feb. 202478%11%11%

His favorability rating among Republicans, likely to be somewhat more reflective of personal rather than job performance assessments, included 73% favorable views and 12% unfavorable.

In head-to-head contests, Cruz holds comfortable leads over both Allred (46% to 32%) and Gutierrez (45% to 31%) in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups early in the election year.

Presidential race

Unsurprisingly, the poll found Donald Trump way out in front of any serious opposition in the GOP primary in Texas, earning the support of 80% of potential Republican primary voters, with no other candidate receiving more than 10% support. Looking ahead to the expected rematch between President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump in November, the poll found Trump leading Biden in two different scenarios included in the poll. In a head-to-head match-up between the current and former presidents, Trump bests Biden 48% to 41%, with 7% opting for “someone else” and 4% undecided.

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categoryTotal
Joe Biden41%
Donald Trump48%
Someone else7%
Haven't thought about it enough to have an opinion4%

In a match-up that included three candidates currently campaigning outside of the major parties’ nomination processes, Trump led with 45%, followed by Biden (36%), activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (6%), academic and author Cornel West (3%), and former Green Party candidate Jill Stein (2%). In the hypothetical multi-candidate match-up, 8% were undecided. Compared to the head-to-head trial ballot between the two major party candidates, Biden’s total decreased by five percentage points and Trump’s by three points with the addition of the named alternatives.

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categoryTotal
Joe Biden36%
Donald Trump45%
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.6%
Cornel West3%
Jill Stein2%
Haven't thought about it enough to have an opinion8%

Dark attitudes from the 2020 election and violent reactions to its outcome among Trump supporters continue to lurk in Texas public opinion. As the former president continues to face legal jeopardy related to his attempts to undo the results of the 2020 election, including his instigation of, and response to, the storming of the U.S. Capitol, a clear majority, 58%, say that “Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election.” But 31% say he didn’t, and 12% are still unsure. Looking ahead, 60% of Texas voters think it is “very likely” (24%) or “somewhat likely” (36%) that “there will be political violence in the United States in response to the 2024 election results,” while 21% think that political violence is “not too likely” and 5% “not at all likely.” The remainder (14%) were unsure.

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categoryTotal
Very likely24%
Somewhat likely36%
Not too likely21%
Not at all likely5%
Don't know/No opinion14%

Other interesting highlights from the February 2024 UT/Texas Politics Project Poll:

Context for state legislative primaries

  • 52% of potential Republican primary voters said it was “extremely important” for them to vote for the candidate who agrees with them on the one or two political issues that are most important when considering who to support in their vote in primary elections for the Texas House.
  • When potential Republican primary voters were asked to name those political issues important to them in the context of legislative primaries, 64% offered border security or immigration; only 2% mentioned school choice, vouchers, or education savings accounts (with no mentions of the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton).
  • When potential Republican primary voters were asked whose endorsements were most important to them, the top response was Donald Trump, mentioned by 24% along with 7% mentioning Greg Abbott, and less than 1% mentioning Paxton. (Overall, more GOP primary voters said that issues were important in determining their support than said the same about endorsements.)

Click for more results related to the election.

Abortion attitudes

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categoryTotal
More strict27%
Left as they are now21%
Less strict45%
Don't know/No opinion7%

  • The plurality of Texas voters, 45%, say that Texas abortion laws should be made less strict, with 27% saying they should be made more strict, and 21% saying they should be left as they are now.
  • Two-thirds of Democrats (66%) and nearly a quarter of Republicans (24%) favor making Texas’ current abortion laws less strict.
  • 32% of Republicans and 25% of Democrats favor making state abortion laws more strict.

Click for more results related to abortion and other policies.

Gun policy

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categoryTotal
Strongly support52%
Somewhat support21%
Somewhat oppose9%
Strongly oppose11%
Don't know/No opinion6%

Click for more results related to gun safety and other policies.

Other interesting findings

Job approval ratings 

  • Greg Abbott: 53% approve / 37% disapprove (December: 48% / 41%)
  • Dan Patrick: 42% approve / 34% disapprove (December: 40% / 34%)
  • Dade Phelan: 26% approve / 29% disapprove (December: 22% / 31%)
  • Ken Paxton: 41% approve / 37% disapprove (December: 35% / 38%)
  • Texas Legislature: 42% approve / 34% disapprove (December: 36% / 39%)
  • Joe Biden: 42% approve / 50% disapprove (December: 38% / 54%)
  • Ted Cruz: 48% approve / 39% disapprove (December: 44% / 41%)
  • John Cornyn: 34% approve / 39% disapprove (December: 28% / 42%)
  • U.S. Congress: 26% / 53% (20% / 60%)
  • U.S. Supreme Court: 34% approve / 42% disapprove (December: 35% / 43%)

Click for updated trends in job approvals and economic assessments.

The poll surveyed 1,200 self-declared registered voters in Texas from February 2-12, 2024, and has a margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points (3.49% adjusted for weighting), unless otherwise noted. Data collection was carried out by YouGov over the internet. For detailed methodological information, including sampling and weighting, see pages 52-54 of the summary document for the poll, or the methodological information contained in the Texas Politics Project Polling data archive.

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