Texas Data Points from the Week in Politics

Much of the week was filled with continuing storylines that are illuminated below with polling data and other graphics – attacks on Planned Parenthood and their attempted defense in Congress, Ted Cruz's campaign for the Republican Presidential Nomination, more of Hillary Clinton's vexed run for the Democratic Presidential nomination, and another entry into the race for the House seat currently held by Speaker Joe Straus. The end of the week turned much more sadly serious with another mass shooting at a community college – and the promise of another round of political maneuvering over gun safety and gun rights that reflect the polarized politics around guns that we discuss below.

(Don't forget - you can click on the legends of these graphics to make your own comparisons with the data.)

 

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categoryDemocratIndependentRepublican
Very favorable51%12%11%
Somewhat favorable26%30%10%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable14%19%15%
Somewhat unfavorable2%7%13%
Very unfavorable4%29%50%
Don't know/No opinion2%3%2%

1. Cecil Richards’ testimony and Sen. Ted Cruz’s unsuccessful attempt to tie continued funding for the federal government to the de-funding of Planned Parenthood put the health care provider in the spotlight this week. Both Cruz and Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee lambasted Planned Parenthood after a weekend that saw presidential candidate Carly Fiorina doubling down on her defense of what fact-based observers see as her indefensible invocation of a thus far non-existent video. While recent national numbers have shown partisan differences in support for Planned Parenthood as an organization, they also showed little support for shutting down the federal government over the issue of Planned Parenthood funding – the same Quinnipiac Poll found 56 percent of Republicans opposed to doing so. That said, in a Texas GOP primary, wild swings at Planned Parenthood are likely to play well. We asked Texans whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Planned Parenthood back in May 2012, and found views polarized along partisan lines: 50 percent of Republicans held a very unfavorable view of the organization, while 51 percent of Democrats held a very favorable view. Breaking down attitudes by Republican factions, Tea Party identifiers where 12 points higher in their very unfavorable ratings compared to non-Tea Party Republicans. There was also a pronounced gender gap: Women were 23 points net favorable towards the organization (49 percent favorable; 26 percent unfavorable); men were 5 points net negative (40 percent favorable; 45 percent unfavorable).

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Very favorable59%15%8%
Somewhat favorable26%13%7%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable11%14%12%
Somewhat unfavorable2%11%16%
Very unfavorable1%45%57%
Don't know/No opinion3%3%0%

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categoryMaleFemale
Very favorable24%29%
Somewhat favorable16%20%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable13%18%
Somewhat unfavorable9%7%
Very unfavorable36%19%
Don't know/No opinion1%6%

 

2. Speaking of Sen. Cruz, while his efforts to force a vote on de-funding Planned Parenthood, a potential government shutdown as part of that process, or at least acquire some major airtime may have been foiled by the Senate GOP leadership, Cruz still had an opportunity to give a widely-covered speech excoriating Planned Parenthood while taking some very direct shots at House and Senate GOP leadership. Cruz seems to be staying the strategic course: He is managing his position in the middle of the pack as other candidates rise and fall in the early stages of the campaign. His campaign seems to be banking on being one of The Last Real Conservatives Standing when the southern-primary-heavy Super Tuesday comes a twanging on March 1, which happens to be primary day in Texas, too. Cruz’s rendition of the southern strategy hinges on a strong delegate-winning performance in his home state. His open antagonism of the Congressional leadership and disdain for the process likely bolsters his already strong position with his conservative base in Texas as they begin to pay more attention to the crowded Republican field. Cruz has long been a favorite of Tea Party identifiers in Texas, as every poll we’ve done in the state since his rise to public prominence has illustrated – and as relates to this week, his favorable ratings among that group increased after the last government shutdown, of which he was the major orchestrator. Cruz is going to make Texas interesting, no matter who else remains in the race come March. (Below: Ted Cruz Favorability Among Tea Party Republicans.)

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FavorableUnfavorableNeither/Don't Know
May 201251%14%35%
October 201277%5%20%
February 201385%3%7%
June 201388%3%10%
October 201392%2%5%
February 201486%3%10%
June 201493%1%6%
October 201488%2%10%
February 201590%5%6%
June 201582%8%10%
November 201589%5%6%
February 201678%11%11%
June 201670%13%17%
October 201672%17%10%
June 201787%5%7%
October 201779%13%7%
February 201876%16%9%

3. Speaking of Ted Cruz some more: He released a list of legislative endorsements (map) this week during a week in which another Texas survey was released showing Donald Trump’s national lead impinging on Cruz’s previous position as the perennial front runner in the state. Looking at the map of Cruz endorsers in the Texas House shows clusters of support mostly in the expected places, with a particularly hot spot in the DFW/North Texas and Houston collar counties. As is typically the case, the map of his Texas Senate endorsements is less telling.

Texas House Endorsements for Sen. Cruz's Presidential Campaign (October 2015)

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Has Endorsed Sen. Cruz for President
56
3
58
135
106
130
2
84
127
5
15
91
93
81
89
67
16
73
26
133
53
62
14
150
115
6
132
66
128
4
94
33
55
10
96
28

Texas Senate Endorsements for Sen. Cruz's Presidential Campaign (October 2015)

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Has Endorsed Sen. Cruz for President
2
4
10
11
18
22

4. Speaking of that other survey: The Texas Lyceum released their poll of Texas adults this week with headlines focusing on increased acceptance of gay marriage, support for reductions in (or the elimination of) prohibitions against marijuana, and Texans’ continued embrace of youth football despite growing concerns about concussions (full disclosure: Joshua Blank is Research Director for the Texas Lyceum Poll, Jim Henson worked on the first few Lyceum polls in the late 2000's). A less covered, but particularly interesting, item from that poll measured perceptions of racial discrimination by the police. Overall, only 17 percent of Texas adults said that they had ever felt discriminated against by the police based on their racial or ethnic background. Not surprisingly, these perceptions vary considerably by race and speak to the different attitudes that Texans likely bring to bear when considering the perpetually spotlighted issue of policing and race going on in America – differing perceptions on full display at last week’s co-occurring Black Lives Matter/Police Lives Matter rallies at the Texas Capitol. The Lyceum Poll found that while only 4 percent of Anglo Texans had ever felt discriminated against by the police, that perception increased to 27 percent among Hispanics and 45 percent among black Texans, respectively. While this comes as little surprise, the magnitude of these perceptions was unknown prior to this polling, a magnitude that translates, roughly, into 1 in 20 white Texans, 1 in 4 Hispanic Texans, and almost 1 in 2 black Texans who have felt discriminated against by the police. We’ll write more on some of these results from the 2015 Texas Lyceum poll next week.
 

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categorycolumn-1
Very favorable17%
Somewhat favorable18%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable9%
Somewhat unfavorable10%
Very unfavorable45%
Don't know/No opinion2%

5. Hillary Clinton was/is/always is in the news again, following an appearance on Meet the Press that drew mixed reviews, another flare up of too and fro on Bengazi in Congress based on comments by presumptive (?) Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, and, of course, more info about her email server. One of the emerging press memes of the campaign has portrayed Texas as part of her "firewall” against Bernie Sanders and perhaps Joe Biden – whom a growing number of Democratic elites seem to want in the race as a backup plan in the event of a Clinton catastrophe. Clinton remains strong, if not as strong as the Legend of Bill and Hill’s Texas Roots from ‘72 would have you believe; the numbers suggest Biden seems a viable second choice for Texans were it to come to that.  

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Second ChoicePercent
Joe Biden39%
Elizabeth Warren19%
Bernie Sanders10%
Andrew Cuomo5%
Martin O'Malley2%
Jim Webb1%
Lincoln Chaffee1%
Don't know24%

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categoryLiberalsModeratesConservatives
Strongly support8%8%37%
Somewhat support11%22%32%
Somewhat oppose16%16%10%
Strongly oppose62%39%15%
Don't know3%15%5%

 

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categorycolumn-1
Very favorable3%
Somewhat favorable9%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable25%
Somewhat unfavorable7%
Very unfavorable7%
Don't know/no opinion49%

7. Speaker of the Texas House, Joe Straus, picked up another declared primary challenger this week when self-described activist Sheila Bean joined Jeff Judson in the attempt to oust Straus. A third challenger increases the possibility that Straus’ race gets thrown into a run-off, though the Speaker maintains important advantages – a significant campaign warchest and fundraising capability, as well as having successfully avoided the efforts of his opponents to turn him into a statewide issue. Our favorability rating of Straus, as we’ve written before, continues to convey a position that’s traditionally been good for Texas speakers: very few people know who he is. There was some small warning blips in our last poll – his negative ratings among Republicans increased slightly – but Straus’s district isn’t exactly a Collin county suburb, and Straus did win his 2014 Primary race with 61 percent of the vote.

6. On a much more sober note: there was another college campus shooting with multiple fatalities and injuries Thursday at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. The shooting took place even as concerns and some debate about the implementation of campus carry at UT Austin were expressed in a campus forum and during a rally coincidentally held the same day. The Oregon shooting is likely, at least in the short run, to inflame opposition to campus carry on the one hand while likely reinforcing efforts to severely limit the number of gun free zones on campus on the other. If the stories that the alleged shooter sought out Christians turns out to have some truth (and perhaps even they don't – see the discussion of Fiorina above), one can expect this element to find its way into efforts to frame discussions of the shootings based on what we know about conservative perceptions of who experiences social persecution. Our June poll found that conservatives are more likely to view Christians as the group most likely to suffer from discrimination compared to many of the more usual suspects. While gun safety advocates, mostly from the left, can be expected to renew efforts to increase regulations, expect conservatives to emphasize Christian self-defense in the face of new evidence reinforcing their pre-existing perceptions – and consistent with their support for gun rights.

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categoryLiberalsModeratesConservatives
A lot of discrimination4%15%41%
Some14%28%30%
Not very much37%28%19%
None at all43%19%8%
Don't know/No opinion2%9%2%