A majority of Bexar County voters disagree with several key laws enacted by the Texas Legislature in its most recent session, the new Bexar Facts/KSAT/San Antonio Report poll shows.

The poll conducted late last month asked registered voters in Bexar County about several new laws passing during the 2021 legislative session, including three that have proved the most controversial: a law allowing people 21 years or older open carry or conceal any gun without requiring a license or training, another that allows anyone to sue someone who helps a woman get an abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, and legislation that curbs voting by mail and prohibits 24-hour and drive-thru voting centers.

Seven out of 10 poll respondents said they opposed permitless carry, while 69% oppose the abortion law. Nearly 60% were against the changes to the state’s voting procedures. A law banning teaching of critical race theory in public schools saw 58% of respondents opposed.

Meanwhile, only 38% of Bexar County voters strongly or somewhat approved of the job Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is doing. That’s in line with job approval ratings for fellow Republicans Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (39%) and Attorney General Ken Paxton (36%).

Abbott’s approval has dropped significantly in Bexar County since late March, when a Bexar Facts poll found he had 63% approval.

Despite this broad disapproval in Democratic-leaning Bexar County, those leaders and their legislative priorities enjoy support from their conservative base. Eighty-three percent of Republicans polled approved of Abbott’s performance. On the abortion and permitless carry laws, 51% of Republicans polled favored the new laws while 63% supported voting restrictions and prohibiting schools from teaching students about critical race theory.

“Every single policy that we tested here, a majority of Bexar County Republicans support,” including the abortion law, said Bexar Facts pollster David Metz. “If I am [a candidate] focused on Republican primary voters — if I am considering running for president — the data, even in Bexar County, suggested this is these are all positive things.”

Less controversial laws and programs enjoyed bipartisan support, including bilingual education, training programs for veteran employment, and increasing internet access.

An attempt to expand Medicaid and decrease health care costs, which the Texas House rejected, received bipartisan support in the poll.

While the state’s Republican leaders got thumbs-down from poll respondents, local officials maintained higher job approval ratings, with Mayor Ron Nirenberg at 67%, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff at 60%, and the San Antonio City Council at 53%.

After local governments and officials received a general bump in polling during the earlier months of the pandemic last year, approval ratings for Nirenberg and Wolff have leveled off in recent surveys, staying between 60% and 70%.

In a previous Bexar Facts poll conducted in late March, CPS Energy saw a sharp drop in its approval rating in the wake of the February winter storm. In the latest poll, 52% of respondents said they somewhat or strongly disapproved of the electric utility’s performance.

“Those numbers have basically stayed the same in the current survey,” Metz noted.

In general, more than 40% of poll respondents said both the city and county are headed “in the right direction.”

Bexar Facts released its findings Tuesday after pollsters interviewed 602 registered Bexar County voters Sept. 21-27 online and over the phone in English and Spanish. The margin of error is +/- 4%. Results from the poll, which covers a wide range of social and political issues, are available online at www.bexarfacts.org.

Vaccine hesitancy becomes resistance

There’s been a dramatic increase in the number of respondents who say they have gotten vaccinated against the coronavirus: 82%, up nearly 30 percentage points from the poll taken in the first quarter of 2021.

But there are some caveats to these numbers, Metz noted. Registered voters are “disproportionately a population likely to get vaccinated relative to non-voters,” he said. “And … there is a civically responsible answer to this question that people know. And even if they haven’t had the chance to get vaccinated, yet, they may be a little bit more inclined to say that they have because they really, really mean to, and are planning to do it soon.”

People who identify themselves as ideologically conservative were more likely to say they weren’t going to get the vaccine — a response that tracks with national data. However, Metz pointed out that “what before we would have described as vaccine hesitancy — people uncertain about getting the vaccine or worried about its impacts — has really dwindled now to be mostly vaccine resistance. People who are saying, ‘I simply won’t get it.'”

The poll also found that three-fourths of parents support continuing to enforce the wearing of face masks at school.

Mental health and homelessness perspectives

New to this Bexar Facts poll was a section that asked people about their mental health and whether they’ve experienced challenges such as anxiety, grief or loss, excessive worrying, difficulty connecting to friends and family, or depression over the last 12 months.

Nearly half reported experiencing anxiety. Women under age 50 — particularly Latinas and women of color — were more likely to report excessive worrying and other stressors. The actual number of people experiencing these types of mental health issues could be higher, since the number represents only the people who are willing to talk about their mental health challenges with a pollster, Metz said.

“There may be some people who just aren’t comfortable disclosing that,” he said. “It may be that younger women are more comfortable being frank and open about it. But it may also be that they’re facing more of these challenges.”

Parents, particularly mothers, were more likely to report experiencing these stressors than people who did not have children at home.

The poll this quarter also asked more questions about voter opinions on homelessness, which is often rated as a top local concern. Nearly 70% of respondents said homelessness was a somewhat, very, or extremely serious problem.

“Voters clearly believe that this is a multifaceted problem,” Metz said. “They get that this is not an easy problem to solve. But there are definitely some differences in the things that they see as the biggest contributors.”

More than 90% of those polled said mental health and substance abuse is at least a minor cause of homelessness, compared to 64% who said it was a “personal choice.” Republicans were more likely to cite the latter.

Addressing homelessness with affordable housing, shelters, and prevention services received bipartisan support, but 60% of all voters agreed that providing more services to address homelessness just attracts more people experiencing homelessness from other areas.

“Even if there may be some imperfect effects that come from taking steps to try to address homelessness,” Metz said, providing housing and services “is still something that [voters think] we need to do in order to get at the root challenges that people are experiencing.”

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org