A majority of Texas voters support several of Gov. Greg Abbott’s controversial border security policies, including sending troops to border cities and constructing barriers to deter migration, according to recent polling data from the Texas Politics Project at The University of Texas.

Many Texans also said they supported raising the minimum age to legally purchase firearms and expanding exceptions to the state’s abortion restrictions. The poll surveyed 1,200 self-declared registered voters in early February.

Pollsters asked voters which of seven policy issues they believed were the most pressing. A majority of Republican voters (42%) selected border security as the most important issue, while most Democrats (23%) said political corruption and leadership was their top issue.

The details

Two-thirds of the voters polled said they were in favor of deploying state police and military to the Texas-Mexico border. Texas has been doing so through Operation Lone Star, an initiative Abbott launched in March 2021 in response to a rise in border crossings.

On Feb. 16, Abbott announced the construction of an 80-acre base camp that will house at least 1,800 Texas National Guard members in the border city of Eagle Pass.

The survey was conducted before Abbott’s announcement. Of those surveyed, 65% supported constructing walls along the border, and 57% supported the state’s use of buoys and barbed wire to deter migration.

Legislative action

Sixty percent of voters polled said they favored creating a state crime for illegal immigration. In November, Texas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 4, which would give Texas the authority to arrest and deport migrants who enter the state illegally. Currently, only the federal government can deport migrants.

A federal judge heard arguments over SB 4’s constitutionality on Feb. 15. The bill is scheduled to become law on March 5.

“While Republican voters’ concern about the border and advocacy of more restrictive enforcement and immigration policies have been evident in Texas polling for many years, the latest results provide evidence of strong concern among Texas Democrats, too,” Texas Politics Project Director Jim Henson said in a news release. “Nearly three-quarters of Republicans supported making it harder for migrants to seek asylum in the U.S., but so did 48% of Democratic voters.”

Pollsters found that 54% of voters approved of Abbott’s work on immigration, including 82% of Republicans and 25% of Democrats.

More information

On guns, 73% of Texas voters were in favor of raising the legal age to purchase all firearms from 18 to 21. The Texas Legislature has largely dismissed related policies in the wake of the May 2022 mass shooting at a Uvalde elementary school.

In May 2023, a Texas House committee approved a proposal to raise the age to purchase semi-automatic weapons like the one used in Uvalde. The bill never reached the full House.

Later that month, lawmakers passed a bill that would give federal law enforcement more information about Texans who have certain mental health conditions and intellectual disabilities during the routine background checks completed before someone can purchase a gun. The law does not restrict who can purchase or own firearms.

The issue of raising the age to purchase firearms received support from 90% of Democrats, 63% of Republicans and 56% of independent voters.

Also of note

Texas has one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation. Nearly all abortions are illegal in the state, except to save the life of the pregnant patient.

A large majority of Texas voters, however, said they support legal abortion access in instances of rape, incest or a high risk of serious birth defects. Texas law does not include exceptions for these cases.

Seventy-three percent of voters said pregnant people should be able to end their pregnancies if their babies have “a strong chance of a serious birth defect.”

Meanwhile, 80% of survey respondents said they supported abortion access for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Roughly one-fourth of voters said people should be able to end these kinds of pregnancies at any time, while over 20% said it should be limited to six weeks, and around 15% would limit it to 12 weeks.

A smaller percentage—45%—said Texas’ overall abortion laws should be less strict, while 27% said they should be stricter and 21% said the laws should not be changed. Two-thirds of Democrats and nearly one-fourth of Republicans favored dialing back abortion restrictions.