The reasons for the Texas GOP’s leap forward on abortion restirctions after a decade of chipping away at access are likely many, and worthy of their own piece of analysis, but looking ahead to the next set of Texas elections in 2022, the sudden change in the reproductive health landscape begs the question: where do Texas voters stand on abortion?
If the repeated results on proposals like banning abortion after 6-weeks suggest a high tolerance for regulating abortion, voluminous and long-standing results are even more clear in illustrating that a majority of Texans do not want to ban abortion outright.
The uncertain date of the return of the renegade House Democrats to Austin make the fate of this agenda unclear at the moment, but we do have a lot of polling data to give us a sense of public opinion on most, though not all, of the agenda proffered by the Governor.
Even as unprecedented challenges to the Constiutional order unfold in national politics, the policial world in Texas was focused on the convening of the 87th Texas Legislature in Austin amidst a surging pandemic, a faltering economy, and shockwaves of Donald Trump's political imposion rippling through Republican Party politics at all levels. Here are five snapshots from the week the legislature came back to town.
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.
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll has asked numerous questions about abortion over the last 10 years, including a now-consistent item on whether or not Texas voters view themselves as “pro-life” or “pro-choice.” Overall, according to June 2018 UT/TT polling data, 44 percent of Texas voters describe themselves as pro-life while 39 percent describe themselves a pro-choice. There are, of course, unsurprising partisan differences. Among the state’s majority party, Republicans overwhelmingly describe themselves as pro-life (68 percent), about equal to the share of Democrats who describe themselves as pro-choice (66 percent).
But these broad labels, like the topic of abortion itself, hide complexities likely to shape the electoral environment that Democrats and Republicans will confront should the Fall be spent on the confirmation of a justice expected to overturn, or severely curtail abortion rights.
Matters of intense partisan contention at the state and federal level – LGBTQ rights, voting rights, the President’s travel ban, and abortion – are getting attention from the judicial branch this week. Our polling in Texas has yielded a lot of data on the issue at hand that might be useful in thinking about how they made it onto the public agenda in the first place, how specific politics and laws that are now being contested in the courts came to be, and how actions taken by the courts will be interpreted by the broader public here in Texas
When it comes to legal cases in general, and legal rights in particular, it's important to note that public opinion can often act as a poor guide to a just outcome, and in many cases, may have no relevance on particular legal proceedings. With that caveat aside, public opinion is useful in determining how elected officials, including the Attorney General, might react to court decisions, and further, whether the state chooses to push ahead in the legal process in the face of adverse decisions.