AUSTIN, Texas — Texas voters believe the most pressing issues facing the country are economic, while the most important problems facing Texas are border security and immigration, according to a University of Texas at Austin/Texas Tribune poll released this week.
The statewide poll of 800 registered voters was conducted May 11-18, as the legislature began final discussions about how to fill a budget gap estimated to be as great as $27 billion. The overall results of the survey have a margin of error of 3.46 percent.
When asked about the most significant problems facing Texas, 16 percent of respondents said it was immigration and 15 percent said it was border security. The economy and education both followed at 12 percent, slightly higher than in a similar poll in February 2011.
“Education has risen on the list of important issues, breaking into the double digits for the first time,” said Daron Shaw, a professor of government who also oversees the poll. "That clearly reflects the conversation going on at the legislature.”
For several years, Texans have been most concerned about immigration and border security, said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project and a lecturer in the Department of Government at The University of Texas at Austin.
“It's still hard to look at those numbers and not be astounded at how constant their presence is in the political consciousness of this state," Henson said. "Immigration and border security in some combination always score over 20 -- and in some cases -- over 30 percent of Texans say it is the most pressing issue facing the state.”
Twenty-nine percent of Texas voters identified the economy as the most significant problem facing the country. Seventeen percent cited federal spending/national debt and 14 percent chose unemployment/jobs as the top national concern.
The poll also asked respondents to rate the job approval of President Barack Obama, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the U.S. Congress and the state legislature. None of these political leaders or institutions neared 50 percent approval rates.
Obama still remains very unpopular in Texas, with only 35 percent of respondents saying they approve of the job he’s done as president and 54 percent registering disapproval. As in past statewide surveys during Obama’s presidency, a large number of those who disapproved –- 46 percent -– did so strongly.
Perry’s approval numbers are also dwindling: 41 percent approve of the job he’s doing, while 42 percent disapprove. Only 4 percent of Republicans in the survey said they would vote for him if he ran for U.S. President.
The complete results of the survey, including a data file, codebook and crosstabs, will be made available on the Texas Politics Project Web site Friday, May 27. The survey included a variety of items addressing policy questions, including immigration, gay unions, legislative redistricting and other subjects.