by James Barragán, Cassandra Pollock and Mitchell Ferman, The Texas Tribune.
Texas voters are split over whether to limit the use of teaching materials in public schools that emphasize racism in the history of the United States, an issue often referred to as “critical race theory.” Gov. Greg Abbott has said he wants the Legislature to further target critical race theory when state lawmakers convene next month for a special legislative session.
Abbott, who has called a special session to start July 8, has already signed into law legislation that restricts how current events and America’s history of racism can be taught in schools across the state. But in signing the legislation, the governor said “more must be done” to “abolish critical race theory in Texas.”
Asked whether they support limiting the emphasis of racism in teachings, 44% of voters said they did while 45% said they opposed it. Most Republicans — 69% — said they support limits. Democrats, meanwhile, were overwhelmingly against — 75% said they oppose limits.
Restricting the participation of transgender students in public school sports, another issue with strong support among GOP voters, could make an appearance in the special legislative session. A total of 59% of voters expressed support for requiring transgender students to play on teams based on the sex they were assigned at birth rather than their gender identity, while 27% opposed it. Among Republican voters, 86% support restrictions.
It’s less clear whether the issue, which passed the Senate during the regular session but died in the House, will be added to Abbott’s special session agenda, though a number of Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have asked the governor to include it.
“As you start thinking about the idea that some of this might be driven by where intense support among likely Republican voters, you begin to see where the intensity is and why they spent so much time on them,” said James Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin.
Younger voters are generally more split on the restrictions on transgender student athletes, while older voters are more supportive of it. Among voters aged 18 to 29, 44% said they support restrictions, while 37% oppose them. But among voters between the ages of 45 and 64, 65% support restrictions and 24% said they oppose them. Voters aged 65 and older were even more supportive of it, with 71% saying they favor restrictions.
Abbott’s priority bail legislation died during the regular session, when House Democrats broke quorum to block passage of a controversial elections bill that would have overhauled voting rights in the state. On top of that elections bill, Abbott has said the bail bill will also be added to the special session agenda in July.
“Preventing the jailing of people accused of non-violent crimes because they can’t afford bail while awaiting trial” had the approval of 54% of voters, while 33% oppose it. Democrats overwhelmingly support the proposal, with 70% backing it and 18% opposed. Republicans, meanwhile, had a negative take on the idea; 41% support it, while 48% are opposed. — Cassandra Pollock