On immigration issues, a wall between Texas partisans, UT/TT poll finds


Texas voters from the two major parties are split on a range of immigration issues, including immigration policy, deportations and bilingual education, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Illustration by Emily Albracht/The Texas Tribune

On immigration issues, a wall between Texas partisans, UT/TT poll finds” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Thirty-nine percent of Texas registered voters believe too many people are allowed to immigrate to the U.S. from other countries, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Another 29% say about the right amount of immigration is allowed, and 16% say too few immigrants are admitted into the country.

Republicans were most likely to say too many immigrants are admitted; 59% say so. Among Democrats, 22% say so, and among independents, 30% say so.

“A stable majority of Republicans think immigration lets too many people in,” said James Henson, head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the poll. He noted similar results among GOP voters in earlier UT/TT polls in February 2018 and October 2018.

Half of Texas voters agree that “undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States should be deported immediately,” while 44% disagree. Most voters are forceful about it: On that question, 29% agree strongly and 26% disagree strongly. Among white voters, 56% would deport and 39% would not. Among Hispanic voters, 37% would deport and 56% would not. Black voters were split, 43% to 42%. The partisan divide is deep here: 24% of Democrats think undocumented immigrants should be immediately deported and 69% do not; among Republicans, 76% would deport and 18% would not. Independents are split 47% to 41% in favor of immediate deportation.

More Texans are optimistic than are concerned about the state’s increasing racial and ethnic diversity, but partisan differences are evident in voters’ opinions on that question. Among Democrats, 62% are optimistic and 22% are concerned about the changes. Among Republicans, 30% are optimistic and 42% are concerned. Independent voters fall somewhere in between: 35% optimistic, 27% concerned about rising diversity.

“You can’t look at Republican attitudes towards illegal immigration and believe they are purely a matter of the law being broken,” said Joshua Blank, research director for the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin.

A near majority of Texans (47%) say they would favor an English-only amendment to the Texas Constitution, while another 40% oppose it. Hispanic voters are against it; 31% approve and 54% do not. Black voters are split, 40% in favor and 37% opposed. White voters favor the amendment, 53% to 36%. There’s a generation gap, too, with 51% of voters under the age of 29 against such an amendment, and a majority of voters over age 45 in favor of it. Partisan differences are strong: 66% of Democrats oppose adding an English-only amendment, while 69% of Republicans support it.

A slight majority of registered voters favor ending bilingual education in Texas public schools, but it’s a close question: 51% would end it and 48% would keep it. While 69% of Democratic voters would keep it, 56% of Republican voters say they would end bilingual education.

Asked generally about the growth of the state over the last several years, 39% say it’s been good, 32% say it’s bad and 29% offered no opinion. Democrats were more positive than negative: 47% to 23%. Republicans had it the other way around: 32% good, 39% bad. Independents were split, 34% to 34%.

Asked a similar question — “Would you say that, in general, the growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens traditional American customs and values, or strengthens American society?” — more chose “threatens” (43%) than “strengthens” (39%). Again, the partisan differences were pronounced. While 64% of Democrats said newcomers strengthen customs and values, 67% of Republicans said newcomers threaten those things. Independent voters, again, were split: 40% chose threatening, 42% strengthening.

“Something like nativism is still animating the Republican Party,” Henson said.

International trade deals have been good for the U.S. economy, according to 48% of Texas voters. Another 23% say they’ve been bad for the economy, and 7% say they haven’t had much impact. That’s a huge change in sentiment from an October 2016 UT/TT Poll, when 27% said trade deals are good and 44% said they were bad. The biggest shift was among Republican voters, whose position has flipped from 60% who said such deals were bad to 53% who now say such deals are good.

“The key thing to notice is the change in context since we last asked this question,” Henson said. “We asked this in 2016, when the conversation was about multilateral trade and NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] and business with allies around the world. And now the context, with Donald Trump as president, is different. When we ask about trade now, voters think about the deals Trump is making and the trade wars going on. That’s really the only plausible explanation for this shift. Republicans have moved, and Democrats haven’t.”

A slim majority of Texas voters (52%) disagree with this statement: “This country would be better off if we just stayed home and did not concern ourselves with problems in other parts of the world.” But 41% agree with it, notably including 56% of Republican men. Overall, 51% of Republicans agree, but while GOP men were more ardent; Republican women were split, 46% to 43%. Among Democrats, 66% disagree with the statement, but the gender gap persisted: 23% of Democratic women agree, while 33% of Democratic men do.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Oct. 18-27 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points, and an overall margin of error of +/- 4.21 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.

  • University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, October 2019 – Summary
  • University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, October 2019 – Crosstabs
  • University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, October 2019 – Methodology

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2019/11/06/immigration-issues-wall-between-texas-partisans-uttt-poll-finds/.

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