Convention After-Party: Texas Data Points from the Week in Politics, July 28 2016

It was the Democrats' turn to dominate political media coverage this week, though Donald Trump’s Wednesday press conference once again displayed his determination to earn media coverage – positive or negative – at any cost. Polling data suggests that the quest for party unity driving both party conventions entails more complex challenges for Republicans than for Democrats in Texas. As Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman nominated by a major party for the presidency, she remains polarizing in Texas even though there is a gender gap in assessments of her. Barack Obama’s speech Wednesday night drew rave reviews from Democrats and even a few Republicans, and could even help rally the troops among Texas Democrats still simmering for Sanders. In advance of campus carry going into effect on public universities around the state (the legislature helpfully allowed private universities to opt out), we also provide some polling data on campus carry and feelings about safety. Probably not as helpful as signage, but we’re doing the best we can – as did several others in the state as they rolled out some great exercises in providing useful public data this week.

1. The challenges of coming together. Both National party conventions had party "unity" as their major focus. Texas, polling suggests that both parties faced challenges in this pursuit, though Republican skepticism of their party was more pronounced going into the conventions. We asked Texans whether they held favorable or unfavorable opinions about the Republican and Democratic parties in the June 2016 University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll, finding Republicans more negative towards their party than were Democrats. It’s likely that the same discontent reflected in these numbers also fueled the success of the two leading candidates that have been trenchant critics of their own party – with only one finding ultimate success. Sanders Democrats, of course, have been critical of the Democratic Party, too, but they are a smaller faction that coexist with a large share of Democratic loyalists, most of whom supported Hillary Clinton. Texas Republican dissatisfaction likely aided both Trump and Cruz in their success here, both stated outsiders of the GOP establishment.  

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Very favorable28%0%2%
Somewhat favorable46%13%2%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable13%25%7%
Somewhat unfavorable8%12%15%
Very unfavorable4%39%70%
Don't know/no opinion2%11%4%

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Very favorable1%2%14%
Somewhat favorable4%10%38%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable10%19%15%
Somewhat unfavorable19%19%22%
Very unfavorable60%38%7%
Don't know/no opinion5%11%4%

2. If you’re looking for underlying explanations for this in-partisan derision, a clue, at least, can be found in Texans’ views of the ideological position of their own party. Texas Democrats express more contentment with the liberalism of their party than do Texas Republicans with the conservatism of theirs. To the extent that Donald Trump’s candidacy emphasizes positions on immigration and cultural identity consistent with the conservative wing of the party, the party will continue to embrace him. He’s likely to have more trouble maintaining the long-term loyalty of Texas Republicans to the extent that his more liberal attitudes on issues from the scope of government to social issues like abortion and LGBT rights are front and center (making the Democratic convention’s emphasis on these issues more of a positive proposition than it has ever been: it’s popular with Democratic voters while highlighting a point of contention between Trump and his own party). Trump’s favorability among conservatives showed little current signs of trouble in June. But further expression of his more metropolitan attitudes could build a wall between him and Texas conservatives.

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Conservative enough8%15%23%
Too conservative60%34%16%
Not conservative enough10%23%50%
Don't know/No opinion23%29%11%

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Liberal enough42%18%5%
Too liberal15%47%83%
Not liberal enough25%8%3%
Don't know/No opinion18%27%9%

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Very favorable4%18%26%
Somewhat favorable3%12%27%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable5%16%13%
Somewhat unfavorable5%10%14%
Very unfavorable80%41%18%
Don't know/no opinion2%4%1%

3. Hillary Clinton is predictably polarizing along partisan lines – but largely accepted by Texas Democrats. See lots more about this in our post earlier this week. Of the many elements to Clinton’s and the Democrat’s convention, her historic role as the first woman to be nominated as the presidential candidate of a major party received much attention during the week. While Clinton polls better with women than with men in Texas (and basically everywhere), gender thus far isn’t trumping partisanship among Texas women on enough of a scale to overcome the advantage Trump gains from partisanship. There is, however, a gender gap in views of voting.  Pew released an interesting post on the gender gap in Presidential elections yesterday (here defined as the difference in the share of votes for Democratic candidates between men and women, though respectable people can disagree on how to measure it.) 

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Donald Trump45%37%
Hillary Clinton31%34%
Someone else17%20%
Haven't thought about it enough to have an opinion7%9%

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Very favorable15%18%
Somewhat favorable12%13%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable7%10%
Somewhat unfavorable6%9%
Very unfavorable56%47%
Don't know/no opinion3%3%

4. Along those lines, Hillary Clinton is unlikely to be much more well-received by the Texas electorate overall than was or is Barack Obama, per the Thursday piece by the Austin American Statesman’s Jonathan Tilove.  The Texas Democratic activist class’ soft spot for the Clintons notwithstanding, views of Clinton among non-Democrats in Texas are nearly identical to their views of Obama (which have changed little over the 8 years of his presidency). In fact, in June, Obama’s job approval was higher than Clinton’s favorability, even among Democrats.  Hillary Clinton hit the right marks in her convention speech, if without the rhetorical whiz bang of some of her major supporters, and by October, it's hard to know whether Trump may help her around the edges. But failing a major Trump implosion, none of this seems likely to change the underlying partisan fundamentals of assessments of her in Texas in the near term.

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Approve strongly44%13%2%
Approve somewhat39%18%3%
Neither approve nor disapprove6%14%5%
Disapprove somewhat4%9%7%
Disapprove strongly6%45%81%
Don't know1%0%1%

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Very favorable38%5%3%
Somewhat favorable29%8%1%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable12%14%4%
Somewhat unfavorable8%8%6%
Very unfavorable11%59%85%
Don't know/no opinion2%6%1%

5. Amidst the glut of tragedy porn clickbait coverage in Texas media of the “anniversary” of Charles Whitman’s 1966 shootings at UT Austin, the so-called campus carry law will go into effect Monday, August 1. Public opinion on the law is closely divided along partisan lines, as are Texans’ feelings of safety in the wake of the passage of an open carry law also passed in the 2015 Legislative Session. While various protests had been planned at UT Austin in response to implementation, a faculty member opposed to campus carry tells Matthew Watkins of the Texas Tribune that "it's summer and people are gone right now, so we are really concentrating on organizing for the first week of classes." 

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Strongly support8%13%35%
Somewhat support15%20%34%
Somewhat oppose13%22%12%
Strongly oppose57%29%13%
Don't know7%16%7%

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More safe11%20%34%
Less safe62%27%15%
No effect20%44%45%
Don't know/No opinion7%9%6%

6. Excellent digital stuff h/t’s: Amanda Woog, postdoctoral legal fellow at the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin, led a team in producing a Texas Justice Initiative project that provides excellent data visualizations (and the data set) on people who have died in police, jail or prison custody, or as the result of a police officer’s use of force, in Texas. Also this week, the excellent folks at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission added a huge digital dump of Rick Perry’s records to the Texas Digital Archive. The Texas Tribune rolled out a useful interactive app by Neena Satija, Lindsay Carbonell and Ryan McCrimmon for looking at Texas lawsuits filed against the federal government. Hours and hours of justifiable work avoidance for all here – thanks, people.