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Most Texans oppose gerrymandering, disagree that party in power should be able to rig political maps

This article was published September 19th on The Dallas Morning News and can be found here.

AUSTIN — A majority of Texans are against gerrymandering, disagreeing that a party in power should be able to intentionally draw political maps to favor one party, according to a poll released Sunday by The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler.

With the Republican-controlled state Legislature beginning the redistricting process on Monday, 54% of Texans of all political stripes opposed allowing partisan map manipulation. On the other hand, 22% agreed the majority party should call the shots.

The poll, conducted Sept. 7-14, surveyed 1,148 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. It surveyed Texas voters on a wide range of state and political issues.

“The public is not looking for a redistricting process that’s going to point to Democrats being excluded from meetings, or those communities led by Democrats being split up into multiple different districts,” said pollster Mark Owens, who teaches political science at UT-Tyler.

The poll showed Texans preferred an independent commission to draw the maps, a polarizing process that typically leads to court battles.

Texas must add two new U.S. House districts and redraw congressional and state legislative boundaries after the release of new population data from the U.S. Census. Republicans currently command the Legislature, meaning they run the redistricting process.

Asked whom they would trust most to determine the district boundaries, 36% of registered voters preferred an independent commission and 20% preferred the state Legislature.

“Voters might have a little less trust in state legislatures, which in the past have shown aspects of partisan gerrymandering,” Owens said. “Some additional checks and balances are what the voters want to see.”

Fairness is a primary concern for voters, Owens said, noting that 42% of those who didn’t know who they want to run the redistricting process disagreed that the outcome should favor one party intentionally.

Among voters who most trusted the independent commission — which Texas does not have – 35% preferred, of the other available options, a panel of federal judges to draw the maps. The Legislature was favored by 12% of those voters, with 29% preferring a board of statewide elected officials.

lawsuit filed earlier this month by two Democratic state senators seeks to have judges create interim redistricting plans, forcing the Legislature to wait to draw its maps until the next regular session in 2023.

The poll also found that 43% of Texans feel the state should not be limited from redrawing districts mid-decade. Meanwhile, 31% of voters opposed allowing Texas to revise the redistricting plan adopted this year, before the next 10-year census.

Democratic and Republican voters differed on how Texas should create equal population districts, which to date have been drawn based on a state’s total population.

Asked if Texas should create equal population districts by counting all residents or by counting only citizens in the state, 66% of Democrats said all residents and 65% of Republicans said citizens.

Methodology

The Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler Poll is a statewide random sample of 1,148 registered voters conducted between Sept. 7-14. The mixed-mode sample includes 292 registered voters surveyed over the phone by the University of Texas-Tyler with support from ReconMR and 857 registered voters randomly selected from Dynata’s panel of online respondents. The margin of error is +/- 2.9 percentage points, and the more conservative margin of sampling error that includes design effects from this poll is +/- 3.7 percentage points for a 95% confidence interval. The online and phone surveys were conducted in English and Spanish. Using information from the 2020 Current Population Survey and the Texas Secretary of State, the sample’s gender, age, race/ethnicity, education, metropolitan density and vote choice were matched to the population of registered voters in Texas.

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