By Theodore Schleifer and Patrick Svitek

September 30, 2014 | Updated: September 30, 2014 6:43pm

Texans see immigration and border security as the most important issues facing the state, according to a poll released Tuesday, signaling an increased concern after a spike in child migration from Central America thrust national attention to the Rio Grande Valley.

Less than two months before election day, nearly a third of respondents said immigration or border security ranked as the state's most pressing issue, displacing education's hold as most Texans' No. 1 policy priority. Only 11 percent of Texans polled by the Texas Lyceum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, said education was the most important issue facing the state.

Both gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Wendy Davis and Republican Greg Abbott, have made education a center point of their home-stretch pitches, including in a new television advertisement released Tuesday by Davis.

Eighteen percent of Texans surveyed picked immigration as the top issue, while 13 percent chose border security.

The poll, conducted Sept. 11 to Sept. 25, asked 1,000 adults for their opinions on the issues two heading into the final two months before the Nov. 4 election. The poll, which has a margin of error of plus-or minus 3.1 points, did not exclusively survey registered or likely voters.Daron Shaw, a professor at The University of Texas and the director of the poll, said the data show that Abbott's emphasis on border security before tackling comprehensive immigration reform could be politically popular.

"The sizeable number of people who identify border security as the main issue facing Texas indicates that the Republican two-step strategy probably has some grounding in reality," Shaw said.

Survey respondents appear able to compartmentalize and localize immigration as a problem unique to Texas: only 11 percent said border issues lead the challenges facing the nation. Similarly, 15 percent of Texans said the economy was the country's top issue, but only 2 percent said the same was true in Texas, where the unemployment rate is lower than the nation's as a whole.

Shaw said the tendency to label the economy as a national concern and immigration as a state concern but not vice-versa is surprising.

"Maybe they simply think the surge in demand you get in a place with a lot of immigration, there it becomes a big issue," said Shaw. "But as you get into the Iowas of the world, it becomes less of an issue."

Last year, before the influx of thousands of unaccompanied minors at the border garnered national attention, only 14 percent of Texans surveyed said they considered immigration or border security the top issue facing the state.

Whether the arrival of unaccompanied minors is seen as a crisis also depends on whom you ask: 49 percent of Republicans say immigration or border security is Texas' most important problem, but only 16 percent of Democrats say the same. Those on the left are much more likely to identify social-service issues, such as education and health care, as their top policy priorities. Though Democrats engaged loudly and sharply with Republicans nationally this summer about how to handle the influx, the partisan split suggests that Democrats no longer are as agitated as their Republican counterparts.

The poll found 48 percent of adults in support of sending the minors home. Among likely voters, the number was 8 percentage points higher.

The survey also asked respondents to elaborate on their views on abortion, an issue that repeatedly has been raised in the governor's race. Half of those polled indicated that their view on abortion does not change given the circumstances: 20 percent of Texans oppose abortion even when the woman's life is endangered, and 30 percent of Texans continue to support it even if the woman merely does not want more children.

However, about a third of Texans can be swayed to support abortion rights depending on the circumstances likely the same socially moderate voters that Davis has targeted since the beginning of her campaign. Fifty-four percent of Texans said a woman should be able to have an abortion if there is a "strong chance of a serious defect in the baby," circumstances similar to those revealed in Davis' memoir.

Davis accuses Abbott of opposing abortion even in cases of rape or incest; 68 percent of Texans believe abortion should be possible under those circumstances, according to the poll.

The Lyceum plans to release a second set of results Wednesday, including those on the November elections and the indictment against Gov. Rick Perry.