Speaker of the House Joe Straus continued his efforts to shift his party’s agenda into the realm of economic development and to re-engage the business sector. Meanwhile, over at the White House, apparently tired of Congress’s inability act on the ACA, Donald Trump used executive power to launch a frontal assault on Obamacare this week, with extremely uncertain political and policy results to come. Texas Governor Greg Abbott also expressed some very public frustration with Congress, who as a group had a pretty tough week even as they uncharacteristically tried to do their jobs by moving another disaster relief bill, which was passed by the House. One of those members, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, outraised his expected Democratic opponent, though also got word that he may have a primary challenger. And lest you think Congress deserves some sympathy, their response to the Las Vegas shooting devolved into the usual puddle of avoidance and utter predictability from all involved.
Public Opinion in Texas and Governor Abbott’s Poke at the Congressional Delegation Over Harvey Relief
In terms of everyone’s standing back home in Texas, a look at the job approval numbers of the Governor, the Congress, and the state’s U.S. Senators finds Governor Greg Abbott in a pretty good position to take a shot at Congress. The Governor’s job approval ratings are very strong among Republicans, while those of Congress remain almost comically dismal -- even among voters of the majority party.
The cycle of initial shock and rote meta-politics that we’ve come to expect in the immediate aftermath of high-profile mass shootings in the United States has now moved on to the phase of political maneuvering over gun policy that takes place amidst the unpacking of the killer’s life. At the intersection of these two storylines, attitudes about the causes of mass shootings inform both the political debate and efforts by the news media, policy makers, and the public to understand and arrive at responses to incidents like the attack in Las Vegas.
As anticipated, the Trump administration has used executive authority to reverse measures implemented as part of the Affordable Care Act that mandate coverage of contraception in most insurance plans. Public attitudes captured in the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll illustrate how the focus on religious exemptions may work to qualify what is otherwise universal support for women having access to contraception.
The Texas Tribune Festival runs this weekend (September 22-24) right here at The University of Texas at Austin with 10 tracks in addition to special events spread out over all three days. To provide additional context to those of you attending, watching online, or reading about it afterwards, we've annotated some of the panels with relevant University of Texas/Texas Tribune polling results. We've also provided links to get more information like additional cross tabs and question wording, but if you want to look for more, we have a good search tool and lots of tags on our polling search page. Enjoy the festival, and if you find a result to share via social media, the tag for the festival is #Tribfest2017.
Eventually politics will return to discussions of how much money to spend on disaster recovery in the wake of Hurricane Harvey -- where it comes from, how it’s distributed, and who gets how much (some might simply call this politics). In thinking about that eventuality, we’ve produced some maps that combine the counties designated as disaster areas by Governor Greg Abbott with district boundaries for the Texas House and Senate, as well as the party affiliation of the legislators and members in those areas. (This meant jamming a lot in these maps and we’re not cartographers – we’re happy to receive suggestions and corrections – and if you would like to use any of the maps, feel free to download and distribute.) (And also, read on, there's more after the maps.)
The public responses among Texas’ political leadership and in the interest group universe toward Donald Trumps zig-zag moves on DACA largely reflect the sharp cleavage between Democratic and Republican voters on issues related to immigration, as well as conveying the more subtle divisions among different groups in the GOP coalition.
On August 30, a federal court in San Antonio issued a temporary injunction halting the September 1 implementation of part of Senate Bill 4, the so-called anti-Sanctuary Cities bill passed during the regular session amid much controversy, including heated confrontation on the floor of the Texas House on the last day of business. The decision temporarily blocked implementation of provisions designed to force local authorities to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and to mete out various punishments to local governments and specific individuals that enact policies limiting enforcement and cooperation, but let stand the provision guaranteeing the ability of law enforcement officers to inquire about the citizenship status of anyone they have lawfully detained. In the June 2017 University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll, we asked Texans about the two sets of provisions treated in this week's decision. To the extent that concern might be thought of as overwhelming, it was not in the direction the ruling took.
Donald Trump will make a presidential visit to Texas to survey the damage wrought by Harvey – reports say he will visit Corpus Christi – and to drop in on the Texas Department of Public Safety’s operations center in Austin. We last polled Texans’ attitudes toward the president in the June 2017 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. For a compendium of every poll item related to Trump going back to the 2016 primary and campaign, see this search result in our poll archive.
Most of the post-session coverage among the Texas political press has predictably focused on the politics of the big three and how much (or how little) of Greg Abbott’s agenda was acted on by the Legislature – coverage led by public signalling from both the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor. But a look at some of the lower profile aspects across the arc of both the regular and special sessions of the 85th Legislature reveals a lot about the nature of the for-now dormant legislature and, more broadly, Texas politics as the political mix shifts more heavily toward electoral politics.