Politics

Texas Voters’ Election Qualms Run High, But Their Reasons Vary, UT/TT Poll Says

Texas Democrats see voter suppression. Texas Republicans see voter fraud. According to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, Texas voters find a lot wrong with who votes in the state’s elections.

Vote signs outside early voting locations in Austin on Feb. 23, 2014.

Texas voters find a lot wrong with who does and doesn’t get to vote in the state’s elections, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Generally speaking, Democrats see voter suppression and Republicans see voter fraud.

“Partisans on both sides can find things to fault,” said Joshua Blank, manager of polling and research for the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “Texans as a whole look upon the election system pretty poorly.”

Half of the voters said noncitizens vote “sometimes” (24%) or “frequently” (26%) in the state’s elections — a view held by 75% of Republican respondents and 54% of independent voters. Among Democrats, 27% said noncitizens “never” vote in Texas elections and another 37% said it “rarely” happens. White voters (56%) think noncitizens vote sometimes or frequently; 33% of black voters and 40% of Hispanic voters agreed with them.

But those Democrats don’t think everything is rosy: 68% said eligible voters in Texas are sometimes (37%) or frequently (31%) prevented from voting. That view is shared by 44% of voters overall, by 24% of Republicans and by 37% of independent voters. Among all voters, 43% think eligible voters are never or rarely blocked from casting ballots. A majority of black voters (53%) said voters are frequently or sometimes prevented from voting; 49% of Hispanic and 40% of white voters agreed with them.

 

“The skepticism, cynicism, even, on both sides, is striking,” said Daron Shaw, professor of government at UT-Austin and co-director of the poll. “I find it distressing that this is undermining confidence in the electoral system.”

Almost half of the state’s voters (49%) said people knowingly break Texas election laws sometimes or frequently. That opinion is shared by 26% of Democrats, 69% of Republicans and 49% of independents. Democrats (58%) were more likely to say that occurs never or rarely, a view shared by 18% of Republicans and 29% of independents.

“Going back to Will Rogers and Mark Twain, there is a long tradition of thinking that politicians are rigging elections and cheating,” Shaw said. “On the other hand, now the conversation feeds into this hyperpartisanship. It feeds a cynicism that I think is unappealing.”

Asked whether the state’s election system discriminates against racial and ethnic minorities, 50% said no and 35% said yes. The party lines were evident on that question, too: 66% of Democrats said there is discrimination, while 80% of Republicans and 53% of independents said the election system doesn’t discriminate. Hispanic voters split 41% to 39% on that question; 54% of black voters said the election system discriminates on ethnic and racial lines, while 60% of white voters said it does not.

“People could and should be troubled about this,” said James Henson, who runs the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin and co-directs the poll. “We have something of a legitimacy question about our elections.”

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 +/- 2.83 percentage points. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.

This article was originally published in The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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