AUSTIN — Nearly half of Texas voters — and more than two-thirds of Republicans — would support the kind of ban on abortions in the early stages of pregnancy that lawmakers in Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia recently passed, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
Just under half (48%) of Texas voters support making abortion illegal after six weeks of pregnancy, as a half-dozen states have done with “early abortion bans” or “heartbeat bills” that would outlaw abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Another 42% said they oppose such a law.
Party identification marked the biggest divide on the question, with 68% of Republicans saying they would favor an early limit on abortions and 63% of Democrats saying they would oppose it. Proposals to impose these kinds of early limits didn’t advance in the just-finished legislative session.
Overall, 15% of Texans believe abortions should never be permitted, and 37% believe “a woman should always be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of personal choice.” Two more groups are in between: 31% of Texas voters said abortion should be permitted “only in case of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is in danger,” and 13% said the law should permit abortion in other cases “only after the need for the abortion has been clearly established.”
The vast majority of Texans would allow abortion under some circumstances, the poll found, but most Republicans were either altogether opposed (21%) or would allow abortions only in the cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life (47%). More than half of the voters who identified themselves as “pro-life” would allow abortions under any of those three conditions. Among Democrats, 65% would allow abortion as a matter of personal choice. Among the voters who said they are “pro-choice,” 80% favored that alternative.
“Most people are kind of in the middle,” said Daron Shaw, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the poll. “They don’t think you should be able to get an abortion on a whim. But they support it for strong circumstantial reasons. When you add in a secondary dimension — at what point are we talking about? — then it becomes very interesting. Although this is an issue where there are religious and ideological underpinnings, they are complicated by circumstances and by what point you are in a pregnancy. Timing seems to matter, and it’s where medicine is really complicated.”
Most Texas voters said they’ve heard about recent outbreaks of measles and other infectious diseases, and a large majority think the government should require their children to be vaccinated against things such as measles, chicken pox, mumps and whooping cough.
But not all voters agree.
While 78% of Texans said parents should be required to have their children vaccinated, 12% disagree, and another 10% have no opinion, the poll found. Support for vaccines is higher among people who know more about those recent cases: 87% of those who said they’ve heard a lot were also in favor of required vaccinations, along with 78% of those who’ve heard “some.” Those who have heard “little” were also less likely to require vaccinations (58%), and those who said they know nothing at all about recent outbreaks (57%) were right behind.
“The vaccination number remains largely unchanged since February,” said James Henson, who runs the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin and co-directs the poll. “This time, though, we asked about whether people had heard about it.
“The more you’ve heard about this, it seems, the more you think we should be requiring kids to get vaccinated,” Henson said. “If you’re looking for a bright spot, it’s that.”
Christians, LGBTQ Texans and #MeToo
More Texas voters disagree than agree with this statement: “A sincerely held religious belief is a legitimate reason to exempt someone from laws designed to prevent discrimination.” While 30% agree, 46% do not. The other 24% had no opinion. But the polling reveals the makings of a real wedge issue separating Democrats and Republicans. While 65% of Democrats disagree with the statement, more Republicans (44%) agree than disagree (32%). It also uncovers a sizable difference of opinion between men (37% agree, 42% disagree) and women (23% agree, 51% disagree).
Texas state government is doing too much to protect the rights of Christians, according to 23% of voters; too little, according to 32%; and the right amount, according to 25%. The responses land in the same pattern when voters are asked about whether the state is protecting the rights of LGBTQ Texans: too much (25%), too little (31%) and the right amount (23%).
Beneath that apparent harmony lies a lot of dissonance. Among Democrats, 46% think the state does too much to protect Christians, a view shared by 5% of Republicans. And while 46% of Republicans think the state does too little to protect Christians, only 16% of Democrats agree. The disparities are reversed when it comes to LGBTQ Texans: 40% of Republicans think the state does too much to protect the rights of that group, and only 7% of Democrats agree. Almost two-thirds of Democrats (64%) say the state does too little to protect LGBTQ Texans, and just 6% of Republicans agree.
The partisan divide extends to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault, which has slightly more detractors (39%) than supporters (35%) among Texas voters. Asked about it, 31% of men said they had favorable opinions of #MeToo and 44% said they have unfavorable opinions. Among women, 38% have positive views and 35% have negative opinions.
But the starkest differences are between Democrats, 63% of whom have favorable views of #MeToo, and Republicans, 64% of whom have negative opinions of it.
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from May 31-June 9 and has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 2.83 percentage points.