Texas public opinion has remained fairly static on the perrenial issue of abortion, but has shifted towards the Supreme Court (in notable partisan paterns) over time as the justices have weighed in on the issues of gay marriage, Obamacare, and, likely, abortion – and as offices have changed hands between Republican and Democratic control. Below is a set of results from numerous University of Texas/Texas Tribune Polls.
Governor Greg Abbott delivered the state of the state speech today, and as expected declared a set of emergency items, enabling the legislature to move bills on these subjects through the legislative process more quickly. These items are school finance reform and increasing teacher pay; school safety; mental health; property tax reform (with a seeming nod toward electing tax appraisers); and disaster response.
Abbott’s emphasis on public education and reforming the property tax system largely echoed priorities already under discussion by the state’s political leaders as the legislative session has unfolded. He ended with an embrace of the seeming Era of Good Feeling that state leaders keep declaring in the Capitol in the wake of the 2018 election ("I am inspired by the comradery and collaboration that have infused this session. I feel it myself."). The causes and reality of this narrative beyond waving at the 2018 election results deserve to be examined more closely; for now, here are some touchpoints in public opinion for the emergency items that the governor has declared in his bid to set the legislative agenda.
Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program: Texas Public Opinion and the Politics of the Border Security–Government Shutdown Imbroglio
If politics in the state capital seem to have taken an oddly agreeable turn in the interim between the November elections and the commencement of the 86th Texas Legislative Session in January 2019, the resurgence of the politics of border security in negotiations between the White House and Congressional Democrats over a continuing resolution to fund the federal government remind us that the nativist sentiment among the Republican base is never far from the surface. Whether they reappear in state politics too, after an interlude of good feelings about the need to address public school financing and forego more divisive policy issues, will depend on the choices of the major players in the legislative process – and, to a difficult to predict degree, upon national atmospherics shaped largely by the White House.
For today, though, the intense views on border security and immigration that have been the most reliable features of GOP attitudes both nationally and in Texas are at center stage as Donald Trump plays chicken with the Democratic congressional leadership over his demands for $5 billion in funding for his border wall (presumably the share the Mexican government has not yet paid for).
A sober assessment points to the best move for Beto O’Rourke, for Texas, and maybe for the Democratic party writ large: The most likely path for most successful statewide Texas Democrat of the 21st century to win his next election is to rejoin the fray as soon as possible by running for the other U.S. Senate seat in 2020. This would hasten the emergence of a competitive party system in the state.
The rampant speculation about a Beto for President campaign in 2020 is a fantasy borne of various combinations of Texas-centric thinking, viral Betomania, and media group think.
The trial ballot in the contest between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke, which found the incumbent senator leading the El Paso congressman 51 to 46 percent, provided the marquee result from the October University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Ross Ramsey did his usual, able job rolling out the results from the trial ballots; below, find a few related observations.
A week before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump has thrown kerosene on the immigration and border security fires already demonstrably raging within the Republican Pary by loudly promoting two measures aimed squarely at GOP voters focused on immigration and border security. First, the president has called up 5,200 active duty military personnel to converge on the Texas border in anticipation of a caravan of migrants from Honduras. Second, in an Axios / HBO interview to air this weekend, it was revealed that the president is considering repealing birthright citizenship as guaranteed in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution through executive order.
This post will be updated regularly to reflect the release of new public polls.
Most recent update: 11/2/18
No one is surprised that Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz voted today to clear the way for Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the United States Supreme Court, and will vote in his favor tomorrow when the Senate takes the final vote. In the meantime, polling data from the University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll illuminates, at least in part, why Senators Cornyn and Cruz would support Kavanaugh even as temperament and forthrightness with Senate, and questions about his past became ever more problematic. A more thorough analysis will require new, more focused data. But in the meantime, the data at hand provide context for why the Texas Senators followed the party line once the responses to the accusations against Kavanaugh intersected with the seemingly ever-escalating partisan environment. From perceptions of discrimination to the #metoo movement to attitudes toward the court, the attitudinal landscape in Texas is marked by deeply opposed, partisan frames of references on some of the fundamental questions raised by Kavanaugh hearing and his and his defenders' responses to the objections raised to his confirmation.
The Public Opinion Context in Texas of the Kavanaugh Confirmation, Sexual Assault Charges Against Him, and Ted Cruz’s Role in the Coming Senate Hearings
Amidst talk (though uneven evidence) of Ted Cruz’s possible vulnerability among women in the suburbs and of a lack of enthusiasm for Cruz overall, as well as comparatively more demonstrable gender differences in attitudes related to sexual harassment and assault, the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh pose political hazards for Ted Cruz should there be new hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the present atmosphere of partisan polarization on both Kavanaugh’s nomination and gender politics, Cruz must walk a narrow and somewhat unfamiliar path – one that requires moderation of his usual temperament.
We revisit key aspects of the relevant landscape of attitudes in Texas below. Multiple results on relevant subjects from University of Texas/Texas Tribune polling illustrate just how narrow this path is in the Texas electorate, who will start early voting in about a month. (This post was slightly revised 20 September 2018 at 3:10 PM to reflect new developments, including data on Texans' views of the FBI.)
Even under extremely rosy circumstances, O'Rourke needs BOTH a momentous shift in voter sentiment, AND a momentous shift in Democratic turnout: possible, but still not probable.