There's a reason you're seeing a lot of campaign commercials by Republican Rick Perry and Democrat Bill White in the governor's race. Illegal immigration and border security are among the top issues in the WFAA-Belo Texas Poll.
It found likely voters believe Perry would handle the issue better than White by a 51 to 36 percent margin.
But on some of the big issues, the two candidates agree — and differ with voters.
The likely voters in our poll hold strong opinions on illegal immigration and border security, but the politicians aren't acting.
"Nobody has picked up that ball and run with it," said Public Strategies pollster David Iannelli, "and there certainly seem to be plenty of opportunities to do that."
An overwhelming 70 percent of likely voters in Texas favor an immigration law similar to Arizona's. Yet despite the public's clear sentiment, Republican Perry and Democrat White both oppose an Arizona-type law in this state.
By a 56 percent majority, likely voters support a fence running the length of the 1,200-mile Texas-Mexico border.
And three out of four higher fines for companies in Texas that hire illegal immigrants.
Yet 58 percent of those surveyed in the WFAA-Belo Texas Poll believe a pathway to citizenship is a practical solution for the 1.6 million illegals in Texas.
When asked about such a pathway on "Inside Texas Politics," Perry would not take a position.
"You can't have an immigration reform until you secure the border," he said.
White says a pathway program shouldn't get in the way of identifying criminals and setting up a worker program.
"That a path to citizenship is something that would impede that legislation," he said. "I want legislation to be passed to deal with the highest priorities."
The poll shows there's a border between the candidates and voters' top priorities on immigration and border security.
Public Strategies conducted a statewide telephone poll of 1,000 registered voters in Texas September 27-October 2, 2010 on behalf of BELO. The sample included 704 likely voters – those who say they vote in “most” or “all” school, local and primary elections. The margin of error for random sample of 704 likely voters is ±3.7 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence interval.
To ensure the sample was representative of the population of Texas, weights were applied to the full sample on gender, age, ethnicity and party affiliation. All respondents were screened to ensure they are registered voters. To filter for likely voters, respondents were also screened to ensure they vote in most or all school, local and primary elections.