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.
Set aside the hand-waving and vague muttering that “elections have consequences,” and the evidence for a public mandate on school finance and propert taxes is pretty thin. It likely has more to do with the new governing dynamic among Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and Dennis Bonnen.
President Donald Trump’s first visit to Texas of 2019 comes as another partial government shutdowwn looms, and as Trump’s demand for funding for a wall or similar barriers continues to meet resistance from congressional Democrats led by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Trump will hold a rally in El Paso as opponents hold a counter-rally that will feature speeches by Beto O’Rourke and newly-elected congresswoman Veronica Escobar.
Review relevant results from the most recent University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll that provide context for Trump’s reception upon his return to Texas, and his continued emphasis on immigration and the border with Mexico.
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.
Governor Greg Abbott delivered the state of the state speech today, and as expected declared a set of emergency items, enabling the legislature to move bills on these subjects through the legislative process more quickly. These items are school finance reform and increasing teacher pay; school safety; mental health; property tax reform (with a seeming nod toward electing tax appraisers); and disaster response.
Abbott’s emphasis on public education and reforming the property tax system largely echoed priorities already under discussion by the state’s political leaders as the legislative session has unfolded. He ended with an embrace of the seeming Era of Good Feeling that state leaders keep declaring in the Capitol in the wake of the 2018 election ("I am inspired by the comradery and collaboration that have infused this session. I feel it myself."). The causes and reality of this narrative beyond waving at the 2018 election results deserve to be examined more closely; for now, here are some touchpoints in public opinion for the emergency items that the governor has declared in his bid to set the legislative agenda.
Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program: Texas Public Opinion and the Politics of the Border Security–Government Shutdown Imbroglio
If politics in the state capital seem to have taken an oddly agreeable turn in the interim between the November elections and the commencement of the 86th Texas Legislative Session in January 2019, the resurgence of the politics of border security in negotiations between the White House and Congressional Democrats over a continuing resolution to fund the federal government remind us that the nativist sentiment among the Republican base is never far from the surface. Whether they reappear in state politics too, after an interlude of good feelings about the need to address public school financing and forego more divisive policy issues, will depend on the choices of the major players in the legislative process – and, to a difficult to predict degree, upon national atmospherics shaped largely by the White House.
For today, though, the intense views on border security and immigration that have been the most reliable features of GOP attitudes both nationally and in Texas are at center stage as Donald Trump plays chicken with the Democratic congressional leadership over his demands for $5 billion in funding for his border wall (presumably the share the Mexican government has not yet paid for).
A sober assessment points to the best move for Beto O’Rourke, for Texas, and maybe for the Democratic party writ large: The most likely path for most successful statewide Texas Democrat of the 21st century to win his next election is to rejoin the fray as soon as possible by running for the other U.S. Senate seat in 2020. This would hasten the emergence of a competitive party system in the state.
The rampant speculation about a Beto for President campaign in 2020 is a fantasy borne of various combinations of Texas-centric thinking, viral Betomania, and media group think.
The trial ballot in the contest between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke, which found the incumbent senator leading the El Paso congressman 51 to 46 percent, provided the marquee result from the October University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Ross Ramsey did his usual, able job rolling out the results from the trial ballots; below, find a few related observations.
A week before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump has thrown kerosene on the immigration and border security fires already demonstrably raging within the Republican Pary by loudly promoting two measures aimed squarely at GOP voters focused on immigration and border security. First, the president has called up 5,200 active duty military personnel to converge on the Texas border in anticipation of a caravan of migrants from Honduras. Second, in an Axios / HBO interview to air this weekend, it was revealed that the president is considering repealing birthright citizenship as guaranteed in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution through executive order.
This post will be updated regularly to reflect the release of new public polls.
Most recent update: 11/2/18