North Texas voters were influenced by inflation and debates over abortion and gun policy
“I advised people to buy groceries or gas, and then vote,” said Tina Aviles, a Grand Prairie businesswoman who is active in the Republican party.
Those sentiments were reflected nationally: Inflation and abortion were top issues motivating voters in Tuesday’s midterm elections, followed by crime, immigration and gun policy, according to an exit poll conducted by Edison Research.
Texas is a bellwether state for cultural wars, experts say, especially over immigration and what’s framed here as border security. A Texas survey of registered voters by Univision and the University of Texas at Austin found that 20% believe border security was an important issue that “you want Congress and the President to address.”
While immigration and “securing the border” were hot topics in political campaigns, North Texas voters were just as influenced, if not more, by concerns about inflation and rising prices and debates over abortion and gun policy, according to interviews at the polls on Election Day.“I advised people to buy groceries or gas, and then vote,” said Tina Aviles, a Grand Prairie businesswoman who is active in the Republican party. “The economy is absolutely what we are voting about.”Brendan Farnsworth, a military veteran and restaurant manager, said he based his vote on women’s rights and taking a stand against strict abortion laws. “That was the issue and not border security ,” said Farnsworth, a Democrat, speaking at a Plano polling site.Those sentiments were reflected nationally: Inflation and abortion were top issues motivating voters in Tuesday’s midterm elections, followed by crime, immigration and gun policy, according to an exit poll conducted by Edison Research. Only about one out of 10 voters said immigration was their top concern in deciding how to vote. An AP exit poll found that voters were motivated by worries about inflation, which has topped 8%, as well as about the survival of democracy. Texas is a bellwether state for cultural wars, experts say, especially over immigration and what’s framed here as border security . Gov. Greg Abbott, who defeated Beto O’Rourke in the Texas governor’s race, spent more than $4 billion of state funds for Operation Lone Star, which sent the Texas National Guard and Department of Public Safety personnel to the border. His approach included busing about 13,000 migrants from the border to New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago.The Biden administration recently reported that the number of times migrants were apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol soared to 2.2 million this fiscal year. That record was driven by a patchwork of policies and frosty diplomatic relations, experts say, that made sending migrants to home countries nearly impossible.Abbott, who has been mentioned as a 2024 presidential contender, hammered at his record of “unprecedented action to secure the border.” An Election Day tweet read: “We’re protecting America in Biden’s absence.” O’Rourke, the former congressman from El Paso, challenged the incumbent, calling for bipartisan immigration solutions, “not counterproductive political stunts.”A recent University of Texas at Tyler poll found that for 24% of registered voters surveyed, securing the border was the most important issue facing Texas . About 42% of Republicans ranked securing the border as the top issue, compared to 5% of Democrats. About 18% of Democrats cited gun control as the top issue, compared to 4% of Republicans.A Texas survey of registered voters by Univision and the University of Texas at Austin found that 20% believe border security was an important issue that “you want Congress and the President to address.” But even more – 50% of those surveyed – said inflation was an important issue.Both polls were taken at roughly the same time – about two to three weeks before the election. The Univision poll of about 1,400 persons had a 2.6% plus or minus confidence level. The UT-Tyler poll of 1,330 had a 2.9% plus or minus confidence level.“These day-to-day issues of what it costs to live were the main driver,” said Sergio García-Ríos, associate director of research at UT Austin’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. “People clearly understand how much it is to fill their tank and buy groceries.”As for the framing of migration, cartels and drug trafficking under the broad label of “ border security ,” he said the conflation doesn’t play especially well with all voters . That’s why border security wasn’t a top issue in surveys or at the ballot box, said García-Ríos, who helped design the Univision poll.“Texans have a more sophisticated view of immigration than other states,” he said. “They know it is possible to be OK with immigrants and really want an immigration system that works and secures the border. Those two things can exist.”During his years in the Air Force, Farnsworth, the restaurant manager, said he shared in the culture of many Arabic-speaking immigrants. “It was one of the most valuable experiences of my life,” he said. Now, at his job, immigrants keep the restaurant humming, he said. “I am happy to have them here.”But the immigration debate didn’t seem to have a significant effect on voters like Krisha Bhaskar, an operations manager for a real estate company. He said he voted for every Republican candidate he could at his Frisco polling place. Driving his vote were the turbulent U.S. economy, rising inflation, high gas prices and the cost of living, he said.“We are helpless and what happened? Democrats took over,” he said. The higher prices are hurting the poor, including his maid, he said. “I had to give her a raise to cover the cost of gas,” he said.As for Abbott’s immigration stance, Bhaskar, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from India, said, “We need to fix [the U.S. immigration system]. It troubles me that we are so casual about the border.”Socorro Perales voted mostly Republican for years, starting with Ronald Reagan in 1984. But that changed in 2015 with the rise of Donald Trump and his statements that Mexicans were rapists and criminals.“His rhetoric was such a turn-off,” said Perales, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Mexico. From that rhetoric, the Dallas resident draws a straight line to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. She said she voted for O’Rourke. Though she doesn’t agree with his position on abortion, she does agree with his stance on gun restrictions, calling it a pro-life issue, too.At a Plano library polling site, Vicki Frinsko greeted voters with a big red sign: “Keep Texas Strong. Vote Republican.” She ticked off her issues of significance: “They are all important, border security , the economy.”Though Plano is nearly 500 miles from the border, migration worries her, she said. “We are possibly missing potential terrorists coming across the border.” More controls at the border are needed, she said. “Do we want someone to come into our house because the door is open?”The hammering on immigrants didn’t sit well with Raul Reyes, a West Dallas community advocate who is the son of Mexican immigrants . He said Republicans portrayed immigrants as “the enemy… I don’t see it that way. I come from immigrant parents.“Do we need to fix our immigration system? Yes.” But he said a Democratic balance of power might make that happen “so that those who want to come to this country can do so.”