We close the week out with a final nod to Donald Trump’s visit to Austin and its intersection with politics and public opinion in Texas. Next week, we’ll return to at least some non-Trump related observations. Probably.
The fact that most Americans dislike both presidential candidates has a been a recurring observation in discussion of the 2016 campaign, one that has fed the sense that the public must be hankering for a third party, an independent candidate, or some other fantasy league alternative to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. A closer look has shown that this “fact” emerges from a misreading of the national data. Data from polling in Texas shows that it’s not true of Texas voters, either. Large shares of Texans have unfavorable views of one candidate or the other, but only a much smaller share have negative attitudes toward both candidates.
Donald Trump visits Austin Tuesday for a fundraising event hosted by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and a public rally in the Luedecke Arena at the Travis County Expo Center. Trump’s pending visit elicited a range of responses upon its announcement, from Democratic claims that Trump’s unlikely visit to Texas is a sign of weakness to Republican efforts to both laud the visit as an honor even as many GOP leaders dodge an appearance with Trump. Aside from Austin being an unlikely landing place for Trump -- the city isn't that weird, after all -- Trump's visit and the response of political class, especially among Republicans, illustrates just how mixed Trump's reception has been in Texas, where Trump finished behind favorite son Ted Cruz in the March primary. This isn’t to say that Texas is about to turn you-know-what-color in 2016 -- the combination of patterns of party identification and Republican antipathy to Hillary Clinton can be counted on the carry the day for Trump in the absence of a serious Trump meltdown. But conservatives and Republicans in Texas clearly have reservations about Trump that are evident in multiple results in the June 2016 University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll.
State politics continued to stir this week as the Texas Senate took a look at pre-k even as schools and advocates grumbled about inadequate funding - something that came up during legislative debate, one might recall. National politics continued to knock on the door of state politics, as Rick Perry tried to help Donald Trump and a national polling firm stirred the pot in Texas in what was probably the best marketing move of the week. A vivid piece in The New Yorker written by a Texas doctor illustrated what Texas' rock-bottom Medicaid spending actually looks like to a real person, while some Republican legislators tied to prevent an execution by the state of Texas.
Trump’s candidacy has cut across the right–far ideological presentation of the Tea Party brand that has helped define acolytes in Texas and frame the internecine fights in the Texas GOP as a battle for the mantle of “true conservative.”
The week saw the stirring of politics in Texas not reducible to the ever-more-weird presidential race, as Texas’ voter ID law was back in the news after the state was forced into an agreement that was a de facto recognition of the law’s shaky constitutional status. Another shaky Texas political arrangement – the system of financing public education – and the polarized political responses that have stymied progress on revamping it, were also on display in a long meeting of the Senate Education Committee.The week saw the stirring of politics in Texas not reducible to the ever-more-weird presidential race, as Texas’ voter ID law was back in the news after the state was forced into an agreement that was a de facto recognition of the law’s shaky constitutional status. Another shaky Texas political arrangement – the system of financing public education – and the polarized political responses that have stymied progress on revamping it, were also on display in a long meeting of the Senate Education Committee.
Donald Trump has almost single-handedly – well, single mouth-edly – driven media coverage beyond the standard talk of convention bounces on to speculation about just how weird his campaign can get – and, yet again, whether the current state of crisis in his candidacy can be overcome. Trump’s most recent paroxysm of impulse and insult started with his response to the Democratic National Convention speech by Kazir Khan, with his wife at his side, about his son’s death while serving in the military in Iraq -- the beginning of a very rough week for the Trump campaign and the party that nominated him.
"Campus carry" -- the ability of holders of a concealed handgun license to carry concealed handguns on public universities (all but one private universities have reportedly opted out using a loophole for them provided by the Texas Legislature) -- goes into effect today, including at the University of Texas at Austin. As we've seen intertwined increases in Second Amendment fundamentalism, heavily publicized mass shootings throughout the United States, and activism in Texas aimed at expanding gun rights, we've conducted extensive polling on gun-related issues over the last few years.
Polling data suggests that the quest for party unity driving both party conventions over the last two weeks entails more complex challenges for Republicans than for Democrats in Texas. As Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman nominated by a major party for the presidency, she remains polarizing in Texas even though there is a gender gap in assessments of her. Barack Obama’s speech Wednesday night drew rave reviews from Democrats and even a few Republicans, and could even help rally the troops among Texas Democrats still simmering for Sanders. In advance of campus carry going into effect on public universities around the state (the legislature helpfully allowed private universities to opt out), we also provide some polling data on campus carry and feelings about safety. Probably not as helpful as signage, but we’re doing the best we can – as did several others in the state as they rolled out some great exercises in providing useful public data this week.
As the Democrats convene in Philadelphia, here are some relevant recent Clinton results from Texas, including favorability ratings, perceptions of her ideology, assessments of what kind of president she might be, and more.