On Tuesday morning, as I listened to Joshua Blank lay out the results of the new Texas Lyceum survey of state adult attitudes on illegal immigration, I couldn’t help but think how different the Lone Star State might be if everyone voted. Certainly, the Texas Lyceum survey showed gentler approach to immigration than what we see in our politics.
Before I lay out those Lyceum statistics, consider this: In last year’s presidential election, Texas had a voting age population of 19.3 million people, of whom 78 percent were registered to vote. But only 46 percent of the state’s adults bothered to cast a ballot. Only Hawaii had lower percentage of its voting age adults show up at the ballot box. For Texas, that means a mere 24 percent of the state’s adult population voted to give 36 Electoral College votes to Republican Donald J. Trump and his promises to build a border wall with Mexico and deport 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Don’t gloat, Democrats, the percentage of the adult Texas population who voted for Hillary Clinton was even less.
Let’s step back one election cycle, Republican Governor Greg Abbott pretty easily won the 2014 election, when less than a quarter of the voting age adults bothered to cast a ballot. Abbott won with the votes of just about 15 percent of the total adult population in Texas. That means five out of six adults in the state either voted for someone else, or didn’t vote at all. Now, Abbott is pushing for a crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities that do not fully cooperate with Trump’s deportation plans.
So why all this buildup before getting to the Lyceum survey? Because it focuses on the attitudes of all Texans, not just those who embrace party affiliations.
One area where this showed up is in a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. A whopping 90 percent of the adult Texans surveyed supported citizenship after long waiting periods, criminal background checks, and a demonstrated proficiency in English. “This result may be surprising to anyone familiar with other public opinion polls in Texas, most of which show that the notion of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. is quite unpopular,” read the survey’s executive summary.
The numbers are different, though, when respondents were asked whether they want President Trump to follow up on his promise to deport undocumented immigrants. Only 31 percent said they did, while 62 percent said they did not; however, 59 percent of the self-identified Republicans said they favored deportation.
Overall, 72 percent of Texans expressed concern about illegal immigration, but just 37 percent said they were “extremely concerned.” Republicans were more concerned about illegal immigration than Democrats by 90 percent to 57 percent. While not terribly surprising that 78 percent of Anglos said they are concerned about illegal immigration, so too were 69 percent of the Hispanics surveyed. Overall, 61 percent of the adults surveyed opposed the construction of the border wall proposed by Trump.
On the issue of sanctuary cities, 49 percent of the adults surveyed opposed the concept, while 45 percent approved. Among Republicans, 86 percent were opposed. So it is easy to see why Republican politicians like Abbott would take that policy position. Among Democrats, support for sanctuary cities was 69 percent, and Hispanics supported the concept by 56 percent.