AUSTIN, Texas — Texans continue to oppose raising taxes to close the state's budget shortfall but also strongly reject cutting spending on education, health care, criminal justice or environmental regulation to balance the budget, according to a University of Texas at Austin/Texas Tribune poll released this week.
The poll of 800 registered voters was conducted Feb. 11-17, a month into a legislative session that has been dominated by discussions about how to fill a budget gap estimated as high as $27 billion.
When asked about specific tax proposals, 94 percent said they oppose implementing a state income tax, 85 percent oppose raising the sales tax and 61 percent oppose eliminating the state's August sales tax holiday.
Overwhelming majorities of respondents also reject a laundry list of possible cuts, including 82 percent who oppose reducing the state's share of public education funding and 87 percent who oppose ending funding for the children's health insurance program.
"The poll reveals that we really want to slash the budget, but not anything in it," says Government Professor Daron Shaw, who oversees the poll along with James Henson, a Government Department lecturer and director of the university's Texas Politics Project.
Respondents, however, were open to other strategies to fill the budget hole. Nearly three-quarters would support at least some expansion of legalized gambling and nearly two-thirds say the state should spend at least some money from its $9.4 billion "rainy day" fund.
"If you're assuming the results of the last election mean you should cut and that people meant government should completely go away, you're overreaching," says Henson.
The poll also revealed that Texans have an overwhelmingly negative view about the direction of the country and the job performance of federal officials but are more evenly split about how things are going in the state, with 41 percent saying Texas is headed in the right direction and 41 percent saying it's headed down the wrong track.
Providing an early glimpse into Texas' 2012 U.S. Senate race, the poll showed Lt. Gov. Dewhurst garnering support from 27 percent of likely GOP voters, with no other candidate in the crowded primary receiving more than 5 percent support. Fifty-two percent of respondents remain undecided.
None of the three potential Democratic candidates listed in the poll -- former Comptroller John Sharp, former Congressman Chet Edwards and former Congressman Chris Bell -- have more than 16-percent support in a potential primary.
This is the latest in a series of online polls conducted jointly by the Texas Politics Project and the Texas Tribune. The results and methodology are available at the Texas Politics Project Web site.