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Poll: Immigration and border security should be the top priority for lawmakers

A Border Patrol vehicle is parked near the existing border wall south of Donna, Texas.
Verónica G. Cárdenas for NPR
A Border Patrol vehicle is parked near the existing border wall south of Donna, Texas.

The poll was conducted last month and also found a majority of Texas want state lawmakers to spend more on healthcare, along with water and electric infrastructure.

Immigration and border security should be the top priority for state lawmakers during the current session of the Texas Legislature.

That’s according to the results of a poll conducted by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin released Thursday. Nearly a quarter of the voters who responded, 24%, chose the issues as what they think are the most important for Texas lawmakers. The current legislative session began in January and wraps up at the end of May.

After the border and immigration, the survey showed Texans believed inflation/cost of living, gun control and safety, and the economy — flagged by 8%, 7% and 6% of respondents, respectively — should be the top of mind for lawmakers.

The poll was conducted February 10 through February 21 and included 1,200 registered voters.

Report authors Jim Henson and Joshua Blank noted that border and immigration was the top response largely because the Republicans surveyed said it was their main concern. About 49% of Republicans ranked the issue as most important while only 3% of Democrats did.

Democrats and Republicans were also split by a wide margin when it came to border security spending. Under Gov. Greg Abbott, the state has spent billions on border security and state-based immigration enforcement during Operation Lone Star. Abbott started that effort more than two years ago after President Biden took office.

When asked what the state is spending too little on, 63% of Republicans said border security, something just 20% of Democrats surveyed Democrats agreed with.

Lawmakers will debate whether to up that price tag in the coming months. Both the Texas House and Senate’s proposed versions of the 2024-2025 state budget call for an estimated $4.6 billion for border security, which includes Operation Lone Star. The bulk of that — $2.25 billion — would go to the Texas Military Department, while about $1.2 billion would go to the DPS, and $1 billion would go to the governor’s office, according to the proposed budgets filed by the House and Senate.

On the issue of abortion, the partisan divide was less glaring but still significant. While only 3% of respondents said that should be lawmakers’ top priority, 47% of respondents said that abortion in Texas should be less strict.

In August, Texas’ so-called “trigger law” took effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s earlier decision to end abortion protections under Roe v Wade. The law makes it a second-degree felony “for a person who knowingly performs, induces, or attempts an abortion” according to the bill analysis. The penalty increases to a first-degree infraction “if the unborn child dies as a result of the offense.”

There is no exception for rape or incest. The only exception is if the pregnancy or birth could cause major bodily harm or death.

Nearly 80% of Democrats said lawmakers should pass less strict abortion legislation, compared to only 20% of Republicans. Still, 31% of Republicans surveyed said abortion laws should be more strict, while 41% of Republicans believe they should be left in their current form. That’s compared to 12% of Democrats who think abortion laws should be more strict, while just 5% think they should be left as they are.

While the issue of property taxes was tied for sixth place on the list of priorities, the poll showed most respondents, 47%, said that particular expense had the largest impact on their finances of all state taxes. Following that was sales tax at 21%. The partisan breakdown shows that 59% of Republicans and 40% of Democrats said property taxes had the highest impact.

The survey also indicated that more than half of all respondents said the state should spend more on water and power infrastructure and healthcare. Those include mental health services at 60%, electric infrastructure and the power grid at 56%, healthcare ,52% and water infrastructure at 51%.

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.