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Poll: GOP primary voters more likely to oppose incumbent anti-school choice state reps

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(The Center Square) – School choice “remains widely popular among Texas Republicans and is likely to have an outsized impact” in the March 5 primary election, according to the findings of a new Texas primary 2024 election poll.

The poll from the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston found that the majority of likely Republican primary voters will vote against incumbent Republican state representatives who blocked school choice proposals from advancing in the Texas House last year.

The findings came from 1,500 likely voters surveyed about their views on a range of policy issues and candidates and how this would impact the upcoming primary election.

The Hobby poll found that Republican primary voters are more inclined to vote against an incumbent state representative who voted against any school choice proposals brought before the House last year in the regular and special legislative sessions.

“The negative impact on the vote intention for a House incumbent who voted against school choice … does not vary by region,” the poll found. “60% of Republican primary voters would be less likely to vote for an incumbent Texas House representative who cast a legislative vote against school choice” last year.

Last year, state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, introduced two companion education bills, SB 1 and SB 2, in the regular legislative session and subsequent special sessions.

SB 1, “Empowering Parental Rights,” would have created Texas’ first universal Education Savings Accounts, funding $8,000 per student per year to be used for a range of tuition and education-related purposes. SB 2, “Teacher Pay Raise and School Funding Increases,” increased teacher salaries, increased the basic per student funding allotment, doubled the per-student school safety allotment, and doubled the per-campus allotment.

Both passed the Senate with bipartisan support only to be killed by House Republicans. The Senate also previously passed school choice bills in 2015, 2017, and 2023, which all died in the Republican-controlled House.

According to the poll, 60% of Republican primary voters are less likely to vote for an incumbent who voted against school choice; 24% said the issue will have no effect on how they vote; 16% said they’d vote for a candidate who voted “no” on school choice.

While the issue has been contentious in rural areas because public school superintendents oppose school choice legislation arguing it could take away jobs or funding for public schools, 58% of Republican primary voters in rural counties surveyed said they would vote against an opponent of school choice. The same was true of Republican primary voters in suburban counties: 63% were more likely to vote against an anti-school choice incumbent.

The majority of Republican primary voters polled, 64%, also said they want the Texas legislature to pass a school choice bill that will benefit all Texas families; 29% oppose such legislation. Another majority, 55%, said they support school choice legislation targeting low-income parents; 37% expressed opposition.

Gov. Greg Abbott has been making his way around the state attending Republican House candidates’ campaign events and endorsing state representatives who support school choice. Candidates he’s endorsed include opponents running against Republican incumbents whom he previously endorsed, but last year voted against school choice legislation and would not consider any legislative compromise.

According to the poll, more than three-quarters of Republican primary voters expressed favorable opinions of former president Donald Trump (79%), Abbott (77%) and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (76%).

The overwhelming majority, 70%, said they are more likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Trump; 64% said the same about candidates endorsed by Abbott and 61% of those endorsed by Cruz. Endorsements by other Republicans were less influential.

The poll was conducted between Jan. 11 and 24 in English and Spanish and has a margin of error of +/- 2.5%.

The primary election is March 5; early voting begins Feb. 20.