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Texans pessimistic about the national economy and losing faith in democracy, poll says

By Raul Trey Lopez, The Texas Tribune

Texans pessimistic about the national economy and losing faith in democracy, poll says” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Texans are concerned about the economy, less confident that democracy is the best form of government and pessimistic about the direction of the country, according to a poll released Friday by Texas Lyceum.

The new poll, which surveyed 1,200 people by phone earlier this month, found that 62% of Texans say the country is off course — a consistent pattern from Lyceum polls in 2021 and 2022 — while only 28% say the country is headed in the right direction.

The poll found deep pessimism about the economy: Only 15% of respondents said the national economy is better this year compared to last year, while a majority — 59% — believe it is getting worse. Just under half, 46%, said their own family’s economic situation has worsened since last year compared to 35% who said they’re treading water and 15% who said their family is doing better.

Meanwhile, 21% said Texas’ economy is doing better than the rest of the country.

The poll also found erosion in Texans’ belief in democracy, with 68% of Texans agreeing that democracy is the best form of government — a 14% drop since 2019; only 40% said they “strongly agree” with that statement.

Among political independents, the poll found their belief that democracy is the best form of government plummeted from 89% in 2019 to 45% today — a 44-point drop.

Other polls have found a similar erosion nationally in Americans’ belief in democracy.

“The 2023 Lyceum Poll reveals deeply ingrained concerns about the current and future direction of the state and nation,” said Texas Lyceum Research Director Joshua Blank. “Significantly, we found a striking erosion in Texans’ attitudes towards democracy. Fewer than half of all Texans now strongly agree that democracy is the best form of government, and that sentiment has dropped by double digits in just four years.”

But threats to democracy and political division were far down the list of Texans’ top concerns: National unity and divisions in the country came in 10th, cited by just 3% of respondents, while voting rights, threats to democracy and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol were cited by 2% of respondents — 20th on the list.

According to the poll, Texans say the top three issues facing the state are border security, inflation and immigration, while they consider the economy the biggest issue nationally, along with inflation and border security.

The state’s rapid population growth received mixed responses from Texans: 44% say it has positively impacted the state, while 34% say the growth has negatively affected the state. More than half of Democrats (54%) see population growth as positive, compared to only 40% of Republicans.

The poll found more Texans with negative feelings about public education. While 55% stated that the state’s K-12 education was either “good” or “excellent,” 39% rated it as either “poor” or “terrible” — a significant increase from last year’s 23%.

“Texans’ rapidly changing attitudes towards their local schools suggest that the long tail of COVID-induced changes to education — and, likely, the increased politicization of public education — has contributed to declining confidence in local schools,” Blank said.

With election reform getting national attention after fierce political battles over recent elections, Democrats who responded to the poll said they supported proposals that expand voting accessibility, while “Republicans prioritized preventing ineligible people from voting,” a news release from Lyceum said. More than three-quarters of both Democrats and Republicans said it’s “very important” for all eligible voters to be permitted to vote, according to the poll.

The poll also asked Texans’ view on the obstacles women face. A recorded 50% said that sexual harassment is a major obstacle for women, while 53% said gender wage gaps are a major obstacle.

The poll also found Gov. Greg Abbott’s approval at 46%, while 48% disapprove of Abbott’s job performance. President Joe Biden had a lower approval rating — 40% — while 55% disapproved of his performance.

Texas Lyceum is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that focuses on identifying the state’s next generation of leaders and “providing a forum for civil discourse.” The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.83 percentage points.

Disclosure: Texas Lyceum 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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