McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Support for a border wall has doubled in the past four years in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, according to a new study by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

But the study also found that a majority of local South Texas residents — 65% — still oppose border wall construction on the Mexican border.

The study released this week by the university’s Center for Study Research and Policy Analysis compared data taken in a similar survey in 2018 and found border wall support has increased significantly among Republicans and Democrats.

A new section of Texas-funded border wall going up Jan. 25 in Los Indios, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

“People don’t buy the better idea; majority still oppose. But compared to, like four years ago, we can see (support) has been growing,” Dongkyu Kim, an associate professor in the UTRGV Department of Political Science, told Border Report on Friday.

Support among Republicans in the Rio Grande Valley for building a border wall has increased by more than 50% since 2018, the study found.

Support for building a border wall. Voice 1 refers to the 2018 survey; Voice 2 is the 2022 survey. (Graphic by UTRGV Center for Survey Research and Policy Analysis)

The increase in support comes as the region has experienced an increase in Republican voter turnout.

The number of Republicans who voted in the 2022 primary elections more than doubled in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties in deep South Texas, according to the Texas Tribune using data from the Texas Secretary of State. There were 11,217 GOP voters who cast ballots in the 2018 primaries in those counties, and 27,052 who voted in 2022. In contrast, Democratic voting demographics for the region remained relatively the same: 60,230 voted in 2018, and 61,631 voted in 2022.

In 2022, voters in Texas’ 15th Congressional District for the first time elected a Republican and a woman, U.S. Rep. Monica De La Cruz.

U.S. Rep. Monica De La Cruz is the first Republican to represent Texas’ 15th Congressional District. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report file photo)

The trend of growing support for the border wall among local voters follows a national trend among Republicans, said Mi-son Kim, an associate professor at the Center.

“The border issue has been nationalized, leading residents in the RGV to respond to the issue similarly as people outside the RGV. And this trend primarily means more conservative sentiment has grown among our residents in the recent years,” Mi-son Kim said in a statement.

Overall, in 2018, only 16.3% polled said they favored a border wall; that increased to 34.7% in 2022.

Among Republicans, about half, or 49% surveyed in 2018 said they supported a wall; that jumped to 75% in 2022.

Support among Democrats also increased. In 2018, only 9.2% of Democrats were in favor of
building the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. By 2022, that number doubled to 18.7%.

(Graphic by UTRGV Center for Survey Research and Policy Analysis) Note: Voice 1 refers to the 2018 survey; Voice 2 is the 2022 survey.

That might be attributed to an increase in national and local media about border crossings, and stepped-up border security initiatives by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, said Natasha Altema McNeely, an associate professor of political science at UTRGV.

The Texas Legislature appropriated over $4 billion to border security initiatives for Abbott’s Operation Lone Star initiative. That includes building miles of state-funded border wall, such as a new segment currently being built in western Starr County in the Rio Grande Valley.

The 2022 study randomly polled 640 residents via phone in South Texas in Starr, Hidalgo and Cameron counties. It was similar in size and scope to the 2018 survey, Dongkyu Kim said.

Other findings from the 2022 survey include:

  • Overall local opposition to the border wall is down from 76% in the 2018 survey to 65% in 2022.
  • About one in two RGV residents disagree that the border wall would reduce the number of immigrants.
  • Men are more likely to support the border wall. In 2018, 22% of men and 13% of women favored the wall. In 2022, 40% of men and 30% of women polled in the RGV said they wanted a border wall.

Dongkyu Kim told Border Report they hope to repeat the study next year.