Hopelessly Devoted: Texas Data Points from the Week in Politics, March 2, 2018

As the party primaries got predictably nasty in the final week of campaigning before the March 6 election, Democratic early voting surged all week, a real phenomena that launched a thousand fundraising emails and at least a few flights of fancy, especially from those who can’t resist trying to turn a good thing into a fantastic thing. In a move that was plausibly if not demonstrably taken by many as inspired by that surge in Democratic turnout, the President used his favorite communications medium (i.e. Twitter, not Hope Hicks) to endorse a bunch of GOP incumbents, including somewhat embattled incumbents Sid Miller (“Trump’s Man in Texas”) and George P. Bush. The next day he crossed the NRA on television, though the day after that he dined with them. All the while, Robert Mueller was fueling headlines on CNN and MSNBC, seemingly circling closer and closer to the Oval Office. Continue on for data on public opinion related to the torrent of political events this week, much of it freshly gathered in the latest University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll.

1. Primary Election Day is this coming Tuesday, and factionalism in the parties is getting more pronounced. There are WAY more examples of this than we can flag here, but some notable ones might include: the paired TribTalk entries on Andrew White pegged to his beliefs and commitments regarding reproductive rights (you know, abortion), and almost any GOP legislative race in which dissident GOP groups funded by a handful of large donors are facing off against incumbents backed by some of the major trade groups in the state (e.g. HD 134, HD 122, HD 99, HD 9, SD 31, and many more). Interestingly, when we look at the attitudes of conservative voters towards the Republican Party, the state’s most conservative voters hold the most favorable views of their party (and with the most intensity). Additionally, when Texas Republicans were asked whether “Republican elected officials in Texas are conservative enough, too conservative, or not conservative enough,” 50 percent said conservative enough, while only 29 percent said not conservative enough. Lupe Valdez, likewise, is benefiting from differentiations in her party, being the choice of 59 percent of likely Democratic primary voters who describe themselves as “extremely liberal” to White’s 17 percent.

Loading chart...
categoryLeaning conservativeSomewhat conservativeExtremely conservative
Very favorable9%14%30%
Somewhat favorable41%54%44%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable18%14%9%
Somewhat unfavorable17%9%9%
Very unfavorable12%7%6%
Don't know/no opinion4%2%1%

Loading chart...
categoryLeaning liberalSomewhat liberalExtremely liberal
Lupe Valdez40%38%59%
Andrew White17%26%17%
Grady Yarbrough16%4%4%
Tom Wakely15%10%1%
Adrian Ocegueda7%7%1%
Jeffrey Payne2%4%11%
Cedric Davis, Sr.0%2%6%
Joe Mumbach0%5%1%
James Jolly Clark3%3%0%

2. Early voting numbers are way up – look at that! If you’re reading this, you’re definitely aware of the surge in early voting that has taken place so far in the 2018 Texas primary elections, and in particular, the surge on the left. We’ve been keeping track of the daily turnout totals in the 15 counties with the most registered voters, as reported by the Secretary of State, if you want a more detailed breakdown. Additionally, you can see Democratic and Republican early, in-person vote totals going back to 1998 in the graphic below, where the key takeaway is that without the early voting period complete, Democratic primary voters have already surpassed their entire in-person, early vote total from the last midterm Election in 2014.

Primary Election Daily In-Person Voting Patterns (2018)

Loading chart...
Democratic Primary Votes CastRepublican Primary Votes Cast
14 Days Before Election2855722782
13 Days Before Election2256118847
12 Days Before Election2395722366
11 Days Before Election3186931171
10 Days Before Election3287126768
9 Days Before Election148059891
8 Days Before Election3374031436
7 Days Before Election3449031689
6 Days Before Election3889134376
5 Days Before Election4858243978
4 Days Before Election9592379669

Texas Primary Election In-Person Early Voting Totals (1998 to 2018)

Loading chart...
Primary Election YearDemocraticRepublican

3. Early voting numbers are way up – but hold your horses on the predictions. While the increase in civic participation is a welcome event in Texas, the increased turnout that many are interpreting as yet another sign of Democratic enthusiasm in the era of Trump has led to the hope/assumption/expectation that this signals Democratic strength for the November general elections. While an enthusiasm gap may well materialize in favor of the Democratic Party come November, a look at the data (published earlier this week) shows that there’s little evidence of a connection between primary participation, and general election performance here in Texas. So hold those horses...for now.

4. @RealDonaldTrump delivered endorsements for Texas Republicans! In the face of intense local and national focus on the left in Texas, Donald Trump, in a set of rather mundane tweets (for the President...) endorsed Greg Abbott, Ted Cruz, Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton, George P. Bush, Sid Miller, Glenn Hegar, and Christi Craddick. While it might be tempting for some – given Democratic enthusiasm that is likely being fueled by intense dislike for the President – to think that his endorsement might be a unwelcome among Texas Republicans, the president remains extremely popular here among Texas those very same Republicans – and especially the ideologically committed ones who vote in GOP primaries.


Loading chart...
categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve strongly4%54%69%
Approve somewhat3%28%15%
Neither approve nor disapprove8%5%6%
Disapprove somewhat7%7%3%
Disapprove strongly78%6%8%
Don't know0%1%0%

Loading chart...
categoryLeaning conservativeSomewhat conservativeExtremely conservative
Approve strongly24%53%77%
Approve somewhat25%31%13%
Neither approve nor disapprove9%3%2%
Disapprove somewhat15%4%1%
Disapprove strongly25%9%7%
Don't know1%0%0%

5. @RealDonaldTrump then seemed to seemingly cross one of the organizations near and dear to the hearts of many Republican voters, with Senator John Cornyn sitting next to him looking very uncomfortable. The now-infamous public meeting with Congressional leaders on gun measures took a Trumpian turn when the President opined that taking guns from potentially dangerous people should happen before all that pesky due process stuff, and called members unwilling to raise the age for legal gun purchases afraid of the NRA – in a break with tradition, right to their faces! On camera! Of course, by Thursday the NRA was at the White House with gun control seeming destined to head into the same dustbin of history as Trump’s promise to provide political cover for Republicans who backed comprehensive immigration reform. Whatever did happen with DACA…?

Loading chart...
Very favorable6%14%48%
Somewhat favorable12%24%26%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable16%14%15%
Somewhat unfavorable12%15%3%
Very unfavorable48%23%3%
Don't know / No opinion5%10%4%

Loading chart...
Approve strongly2%16%18%
Approve somewhat8%8%32%
Neither approve nor disapprove22%24%22%
Disapprove somewhat18%16%12%
Disapprove strongly41%17%6%
Don't know9%18%10%

Loading chart...
Less safe75%31%13%
No impact14%15%14%
Don't know/no opinion6%10%7%

Loading chart...
Strongly support54%
Somewhat support24%
Somewhat oppose8%
Strongly oppose9%
Don't know4%

Loading chart...
Strongly support78%46%33%
Somewhat support14%24%37%
Somewhat oppose3%7%14%
Strongly oppose4%11%13%
Don't know1%12%3%

6. Meanwhile, the Mueller investigation relentlessly continues on. Reports from the week saw too many developments in the probe to list separately (see Politico’s round-up page that just includes their coverage for a sense of the volume and velocity), including a news-filled Wednesday that found Hope Hicks announcing her impending departure (in a story broken by The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, the busiest woman in journalism) and inside information broken by Katy Tur and Carol E. Lee (they work hard, too, no offense intended) that Mueller is looking directly at whether Donald Trump – himself, not just others – had advance notice of the Clinton emails absconded with by Russian hackers. While this week represented a mere continuation of the consistent stream of revelations about Russia’s influence campaign in 2016, we noted, in an op-ed most recently published in the San Antonio Express News, that polling data in Texas indicates that most partisans’ views about the investigation have already been made up – which is, we opine, a sad state of affairs, especially given that a big subset of those attitudes are being maintained in stark denial of facts that are clearly in evidence.

Quick Hits

The national press keeps getting more and more interested in Beto O’Rourke's chances against Ted Cruz, and Democrats on social media dug it when CNN changed their rating on the US Senate race in Texas from “solid Republican” to “likely Republican.

David Brockman over at the Texas Observer looked into the Texas Republican Party’s continued reliance on Christian conservatives for their electoral appeals, and contends that this reliance is turning off a state with increasing religious diversity. This may or may not be true, but Texas Republicans still see Christians as the most discriminated against group in the United States today in our latest round of polling, FWIW.

Loading chart...
African Americans35%16%7%
Gays and lesbians9%2%4%
Transgender people16%12%10%

Brandon Formby of the Texas Tribune revisited the response to Harvey, writing that, “initial public optimism has crashed against the reality of trying to re-engineer an already-byzantine process of getting disaster aid to hurricane survivors.” This is no doubt frustrating to those directly affected, and public approval of all levels of government response dropped slightly between the October 2017 and February 2018 UT/Texas Tribune polls. But the overall levels raise the question of how much the rest of the state is noticing (despite Jerry Patterson’s best efforts). 

Loading chart...
Approve strongly17%20%44%
Approve somewhat29%19%36%
Neither approve nor disapprove21%33%9%
Disapprove somewhat15%13%3%
Disapprove strongly10%0%1%
Don't know9%14%6%

The Tribune’s Emma Platoff covered the Houston Fire Department getting sued for gender discrimination by the federal government. The most recent UT/Texas Tribune Poll found a slight increase in the share of Texans who thought women experiences “some” or “a lot of discrimination” since June 2016.  

Loading chart...
A lot of discrimination19%
Not very much22%
None at all10%
Don't know/no opinion3%

The news media is writing about the President’s mental stability or at least his mood – again, including Gloria Borger on the CNN site (“The great unraveling: Trump's allies are really worried about him”), Maggie Haberman & Mark Landler in the New York Times, and and Stephanie Ruhle and Peter Alexander on the NBC News site (" the president became "unglued," in the words of one official familiar with the president's state of mind.") His supporters in Texas aren't worried, as we saw in February numbers after inquiring ever-so-politely about his "temperament."

Loading chart...
Don't know4%11%8%

Don’t forget, today is the last day to vote early.  Our colleague in the history department and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT exhorted his UT students to vote in his most excellent online US history course, and you could probably use the video to exhort others, too.