Keyword: Public Health
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.
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.
The thorough politicization of the laws governing the voting process is deeply rooted in attitudes in the electorate among both Republican and Democratic voters. The result is that an opportunity to find common cause at the crossroads of public health and civic aspiration has instead devolved into endless trips to court amidst a dispiriting replay of the long history of turning the franchise into something more akin to extracting back pay from a stingy boss than exercising a constitutional right.
What’s missing in prominent interpretations of Governor Greg Abbott's response to COVID-19 — the criticism of Abbott as pandering to his base and the president at the expense of public health, and the adjusted take that this is the judicious Abbott we’ve always known — is that both the substance of the order and the style in which he issued it are consistent with one of the throughlines of his governorship to date: His ambition to strengthen the role of the executive branch in Texas’s political order, while at the same time aligning his reframing of that political order with the dispositions of conservative voters in his party’s base. Yes, Abbott is both political and deliberate in his approach. But there is a larger orientation to both his politics and the style of his approach, and he is following this orientation in his approach to confronting the most serious conjunction of crises the state has faced in the experience of most living Texans. While his political needs and institutional strategy reflect specific ideological and policy choices, reducing them to pandering or an inapt temperament misses the overall arc of Abbott’s approach – and its implications for the state both in the immediate crisis and in its uncertain aftermath.
The latest University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll, which Ross Ramsey wrote about in a batch of stories released through the week, covered a range of subjects and issues with an emphasis on the current legislative session. As always, we’ll continue to mine the data and connect it with happenings at the legislature as the session kicks into a higher gear, but below are a first set of observations, hopefully more than hot takes but certainly less than the in-depth treatment we’ll give them in coming weeks.