Scary Texas Data Points from the Week in Politics (October 30)

Halloween is upon us, but it's already been a scary week for Jeb Bush and homeowners thinking about their property tax bills – but Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are trying their best to calm everyone down. Calm by nature, Dr. Ben Carson started the week off early causing a stir with his proclamation that he's against abortion in cases of rape and incest, while two of Texas politics' more animated politicians – Dan Patrick and Ted Cruz – essentially endorsed each other. Both Patrick and Governor Abbott also endorsed the legislature preventing so-called sanctuary cities in Texas, but not enough to require legislators to haunt Austin in a special session. Finally, President Obama followed the lead of Texas in pressing for a reduction in standardized testing – a treat for kids and their parents, who increasingly told pollsters they find frequent high stakes testing pretty ghastly. 

1. Ben Carson started the week early by going on Meet the Press and telling Chuck Todd that he opposes abortion in cases of rape and/or incest, while "there's room to discuss" the issue when a woman’s life is in danger. This is a position far outside the mainstream, at odds even with much of the Republican electorate and the attitudes of conservatives. Here in Texas, only 19 percent of self-identified conservatives said that abortion should be completely banned, with 41 percent saying that it should, in fact, be available in cases of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger. Carson’s statement, whether heartfelt or not, is not an uncommon development in Republican primary politics, as we saw last election in the Lieutenant Governor’s race.

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By law, abortion should never be permitted.4%11%19%
The law should permit abortion only in case of rape, incest or when the woman's life is in danger.10%23%41%
The law should permit abortion for reasons other than rape, incest, or danger to the woman's life, but only after the ne10%16%20%
By law, a woman should always be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of personal choice.74%43%16%
Don't know3%7%4%

2. Bernie Sanders hired a pollster last week – and endorsed pot legalization this week. While the two are OF COURSE completely unrelated, Sanders endorsement of removing marijuana from the list of federally banned drugs is a position very popular with Democrats, many Republicans, and even those here in Texas. But most importantly to Sanders, 70 percent of liberals expressed strong support for the decriminalization of marijuana, while 72 percent expressed support for legalizing small or large amounts of marijuana for recreational consumption here in Texas – facts that Sanders is now no doubt aware. Ditto Donald Trump, who spent part of the week criticizing Iowa pollsters he was complimenting a couple of weeks ago, but also lightened up on pot legalization after he fell out of the lede in most of the CNBC post-debate stories.

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Strongly support70%45%32%
Somewhat support18%22%26%
Somewhat oppose2%9%15%
Strongly oppose5%15%20%
Don't know4%9%7%

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Marijuana possession should not be legal under any circumstances.10%21%31%
Marijuana possession should be legal for medical purposes only.19%36%40%
Possession of small amounts of marijuana for any purpose should be legal.39%27%20%
Possession of any amount of marijuana for any purpose should be legal.33%17%9%

3. Dan Patrick endorsed Ted Cruz – and vice versa, sort of.  We wrote earlier this week about the politics of the Patrick endorsement, so we won’t rehash that here. But the gist is that Patrick’s endorsement of Cruz produces as much or more of a benefit to the Lieutenant Governor than it does to Cruz at this point in the process, and the real question remains: when will Abbott get into the fray?  In the meantime, coverage of Cruz’s CNBC debate performance made this an even better week for the Lt. Governor.

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categoryLeaning conservativeSomewhat conservativeExtremely conservative
Very favorable16%35%64%
Somewhat favorable30%33%18%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable25%15%7%
Somewhat unfavorable14%7%3%
Very unfavorable13%5%4%
Don't know/No opinion3%5%5%

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categoryLeaning conservativeSomewhat conservativeExtremely conservative
Very favorable4%14%35%
Somewhat favorable26%36%22%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable39%24%25%
Somewhat unfavorable16%9%4%
Very unfavorable3%3%4%
Don't know/No opinion12%13%10%

4. President Obama joined Texans in saying "cool it" to standardized testing. Texans have been moving away from George W. Bush’s legacy of rigorous standardized testing for a while, as we’ve written (here and here), largely because of the growing bipartisan consensus that K-12 students are being tested too much throughout their educational career, and the more general feeling that too much time is spent teaching to these tests. In many ways, Obama’s announcement significantly trails an ongoing movement, as the Texas Legislature made a significant, and very popular, reduction in testing back in the 2013 session.

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Strongly support38%31%33%
Somewhat support26%22%25%
Somewhat oppose17%24%19%
Strongly oppose13%8%13%
Don't know7%15%10%

5. Gov. Abbott wrote a letter to Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez – ensuring that Sanctuary Cities is here to stay for a while as an issue for Republican candidates. Abbott is blowing a now-familiar dog whistle here in Texas, with the result being a push by some of the most vocal elements of the Tea Party for an immediate special session to address the issue. Abbott’s response: show up and vote in 2016. Historically, this is an interesting ping pong back and forth between Texas and national politicians. Before the Senate took up the issue last week, it was a centerpiece of Rick Perry’s immigration play against Bill White in the 2010 Texas gubernatorial election. By week's end, Lt. Governor Patrick's office was telling – reminding, actually – reporters that the Senate custom of not adopting supermajority rules during special sessions would make it easier to pass a sanctuary cities bill. In response, Texas Tribune reporters Julian Aguilar and Jay Root did some simulated vote whipping in the upper chamber and seemed to rustle up at least 16 votes, with Senators careful to express support of anti-sanctuary cities legislation without crossing the governor (even Connie Burton!). Difficult not to see Lt. Governor Patrick's aides stirring of the cauldron in the context of his repeated declarations that he's not interested in challenging Abbott in the 2018 primary.

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Approve of sanctuary cities36%10%2%
Disapprove of sanctuary cities45%78%95%
Don't know19%11%3%

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Enough to make a difference to most Texas families29%
Not enough to make a difference56%
Don't know/No opinion14%

6. Texas leaders continued to harp on property and other local taxes as the Prop 1 election nears. And that harping is not likely to go away after Prop 1’s likely passage, whether from elected leaders like the Lieutenant Governor, or from the voters. When asked whether or not the anticipated dollar amount of tax reductions yielded by the the proposed homestead exemption increase would make a difference to most Texas families, a majority of Texas voters said that the likely cuts would not make a difference, including, maybe most importantly, majorities of Republicans and Conservatives. More tax relief was front and center in the Lt. Governor’s interim charges, and you can bet it will be in House interim charges, too.  A funny thing to note here:  the views of Tea Party identifiers look more like those of Democrats than those of non-Tea Party Republicans:  66 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Tea Party identifiers say the average tax reduction isn't enough to make a difference to most families, while only 47 percent of non-Tea Party Republicans think it's not enough.

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Enough to make a difference to most Texas families26%42%30%
Not enough to make a difference66%47%63%
Don't know/No opinion8%10%6%

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Enough to make a difference to most Texas families25%20%35%
Not enough to make a difference63%47%53%
Don't know/No opinion12%33%12%

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Enough to make a difference to most Texas families22%28%34%
Not enough to make a difference69%48%56%
Don't know/No opinion9%23%11%

7. Oh, and there was also GOP Presidential Debate, and only Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are happy about it. The buzz coming out of that debate focused mainly on whether we should be on death watch for Jeb! Bush's campaign and CNBC’s handling of the event and the fallout (which has it's own Texas angle). We wrote about the former at least. Happy Halloween.