Post Date: December 2020
Based on a decade of polling data, we know that once the electorate, such as it is, elect their representatives, most of them don’t pay much attention to what they do during the actual session. In five University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls conducted at the end of the 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019 legislative sessions, no more than 13% of Texas voters admitted to following the legislative session “extremely closely” (2011), while no more than 45% have said that they followed the legislative session even “somewhat closely” (2015).
The reliance on widespread vaccination in the not-too-near future to stop the spread of the virus requires addressing the very real threat posed by widespread resistance to vaccination. Public opinion polling in Texas provides valuable information about how to go about attacking skepticism that is largely based on misinformation or exaggerated fears.
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s motion before the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss the election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia has put Paxton in the center ring of Donald Trump’s never ending circus of efforts to delegitimize the 2020 presidential election in the eyes of his followers. Trump’s motives in his seemingly Quixotic effort to undo the election as always are the subject of intense speculation, no doubt by design. As the national media reward both Trump and Paxton with a flurry of attention, however derisive, over Paxton’s legally dubious and baldly political effort before the court, it’s worth looking at the Texas context of Paxton's turn in the spotlight.
The public opinion data that has accumulated over the length of the pandemic makes clear that Republican executive branch leaders like the president and the governor bear heavier responsibilities, because it is their partisans who both most need to receive a different message and who are most likely to be responsive to that message coming from them.