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Poll debunks Texas' conservative image
June 24, 2009

The conservative tilt of Texas is not as steep on some spending and social issues as many believe – with a majority favoring either civil unions or marriage rights for gay couples and almost half endorsing taxpayer money for embryonic stem cell research.

Written by Christy Hoppe, Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – The conservative tilt of Texas is not as steep on some spending and social issues as many believe – with a majority favoring either civil unions or marriage rights for gay couples and almost half endorsing taxpayer money for embryonic stem cell research.

A new poll by the nonpartisan Texas Lyceum, a leadership development group, asked about economic and social issues, and, as expected, found that jobs and finances dominate Texas concerns right now.

Fifty-eight percent said they are worse off now than they were a year ago. More than one-third said they had put off buying a new car and almost half doubted the security of their retirement funds.

The conservative sway was seen in the polling sample's overwhelming rejection of further bailouts for auto and financial companies.

But Texans by even greater numbers favored more government spending for education initiatives and new energy products, even if it meant increasing the deficit.

Those two topics, along with infrastructure spending, were more popular than tax cuts.

Texas' image as a die-hard red state "has always been exaggerated," said Dr. Daron Shaw, a University of Texas political science professor who conducted the poll. "In terms of public policy, it's always been a practical state."

He said he was surprised by the support for gay unions or marriage (57 percent) and embryonic cell research (48 percent).

It's "more balanced than the caricature of Texas would have you believe," he said.

Democrats who oppose voter ID, which disrupted the legislative session, found themselves on the wrong end of the poll.

Given the choice between securing the voting booth or turning away voters who don't have a picture identification, 70 percent of Texans said they backed making voters show proof of who they are.

The telephone poll of 860 adults was conducted June 5-12 and has a margin of error of about 3 percentage points.

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