Jim Henson

Trending into 2024: How the past year in Texas public opinion sets the stage for the election year in Texas

January 17, 2024
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

Texans’ attitudes about politics – whether about issues, ideas, institutions, political leaders, or any other political subject – are only one of several persistent elements that shape how the state’s political system works. Political elites, by definition, make decisions that are far more consequential than any individual vote. Structural elements like the economy, international flows of migrants, or climate change ripple through politics. But in a democratic political system, even one experiencing duress, public opinion interacts with all of these factors, responding to context and to the actions of elites while also acting as part of a feedback loop among all three. Below are nine observations drawn from University of Texas/Texas Politics Project polling data to provide context as the 2024 elections unfold.

Despite the record of the 88th Legislature, GOP legislators have trouble displaying enough of the Right Stuff to fend off widespread challenges to incumbents.

January 12, 2024
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

The last two legislative sessions saw Texas Republicans successfully championing new laws that gained national attention for testing the boundaries of Constitutionality and public acceptance. From Texas’ de facto ban on abortion, with its creation of a civil bounty-hunting enforcement mechanism, to the assertion of state authority over border and immigration enforcement, the Republican-led legislature and leading statewide elected officials have invested an enormous amount of political capital in implementing measures expected to appeal strongly to the most conservative corners of the Texas GOP. Yet public opinion polling and the emerging dynamics of the 2024 GOP primary suggest that for Republican legislative incumbents, the threshold for demonstrating that you have the right stuff to avoid being challenged from the right in this year’s heated primary is at best a moving target.

Texas Republicans’ views of January 6 align with views of the 2020 election and Donald Trump

January 5, 2024
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

Three years after rioters violently overran the U.S. Capitol and disrupted the counting of electoral college votes to ratify Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, the deep divisions and decay in institutional trust that fueled the riot remain starkly apparent in Texas public opinion.  

December UT/Texas Politics Project Poll: After long legislative session, Texas voters have not-so-great expectations

December 19, 2023
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

After a bruising 2023 legislative session extended by four special sessions, Texas voters continue to convey little confidence in legislative efforts to address key problems in the state such as the reliability of the grid, public school safety, and improved border security, according to a University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll conducted in early December. When asked about their support for key legislative priorities during the session, the issues deemed most important by the largest shares of voters were areas in which the legislature either failed to pass significant legislation or achieved mixed results.

Revisiting Texas attitudes on immigration and border security as Abbott doubles down in McAllen with Donald Trump

November 17, 2023
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

As the Thanksgiving holiday and the expiration date of a fourth special session of the Texas Legislature draw near, Gov. Greg Abbott and the Republican legislative majority are close to enacting a new batch of legislation related to immigrants and border security that yet again push the boundaries of both the U.S. Constitution and historical norms around the treatment of migrants and immigrants in the U.S.. Expect the new legal and rhetorical boundaries (or lack thereof) around “securing the border” to be on full display when Gov. Abbott and Donald Trump stage a joint visit to McAllen this weekend, where Abbott is expected to endorse Trump’s bid to return to the White House and the two are expected to discuss “future plans for curbing illegal immigration.”

Even as people who work in the Texas Capitol continue to obsess about the death match over school choice playing out in the legislature in the final days of the special session, it should be no surprise that Republicans from Trump and Abbott down to legislative backbenchers all view immigration and border security as their political lifelines after a bruising year of unprecedented political infighting. With the prospects of delivering an ESA/voucher/choice bill still too close to call amidst continued resistance in the Texas House, there's no denying the political logic of keeping immigration and border security on the legislative agenda, which sustain Republican campaigns in both primary and general election campaigns more than any other policy issues.

Assessing Ken Paxton’s political standing after his impeachment escape

November 1, 2023
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

The Attorney General’s current and promised public efforts to strike back at enemies from within his own party make questions about Paxton’s standing with the public – especially Republican voters’ views of the now concluded impeachment and trial, and of Paxton himself – a practical matter for incumbent legislators preparing to face primary challengers who, in some cases, will be looking to rely on Paxton’s support. To a lesser extent, but maybe more consequentially, these public perceptions also bear on the question of how much deep funders of those challengers will attempt to use Paxton as an asset in their recurring efforts to dislodge Republicans not to their liking.

New UT/ Texas Politics Project Poll: Trump still dominates presidential race in Texas, no movement on vouchers, and signs of a Paxton recovery among Republicans

October 25, 2023
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

With one year to go before the 2024 presidential election, the latest University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll finds former president Donald Trump dominating a crowded Republican primary field and holding a comfortable lead in a hypothetical re-match with President Joe Biden, who faces no serious competition in the Democratic primary so far. The poll also asked Texans about educational savings accounts and other public education issues at the center of the third special session of the 88th Texas Legislature currently underway in Austin. The poll found a modest majority, 51%, supportive of “establishing a voucher, educational savings account, or other ‘school choice’ program in Texas,” with slightly less than a third, 30%, opposed, and 19% holding no opinion. The latest University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll was conducted October 5-17, 2023, among 1200 self-declared registered voters in Texas. The margin error for topline results is +/- 2.83% (3.3% adjusted for weighting).

Special Session agenda inflames intraparty GOP voucher conflict, while tapping into broad Republican consensus on border, immigration, COVID, and vaccines

October 8, 2023
By: 
Jim Henson

Gov. Greg Abbott’s much-anticipated agenda for the third Special session of the 88th Legislature delivered the expected calls for action on vouchers and items related to immigration and border security, with the addition of another nod to the concerns of the right wing of his party, legislation prohibiting COVID-19 vaccines by private employers. 

Confronting the voucher issue yet again – unavoidable as a result of campaign promises, elite politics with the Texas GOP (especially involving the governor and lieutenant governor), and the deep pockets of a small but persistent group of large donors – promises to stoke the already-raging internecine conflicts among Republicans in the legislature. The remaining items – focused on immigration and border security issues and the retro-feeling COVID vaccine item – will intentionally remind Republicans that there are plenty of things that unite the mostly extreme-right activists who are most fired up about vouchers (and the injustices meted out to Attorney General Paxton) and the less activated Republican voters (and elected officials, for that matter) who are less attentive to, let alone motivated by, either vouchers or the Paxton imbroglio. 

As another special session begins, GOP primary politics, not popular demand, keep vouchers on the agenda

October 6, 2023
By: 
Joshua Blank
Jim Henson

After the repeated failures of the Republican legislature to pass voucher legislation throughout their two decades of total control of the state’s political process, the GOP leadership’s determination to focus efforts yet again on creating a voucher bill invites attention to one of the many challenges still facing the legislature in its latest attempt: it’s lack of importance to most voters. 

Amid divisions on Paxton and vouchers, border security remains the great Republican unifier in Texas

September 22, 2023
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

Within hours of the Texas Senate’s acquittal of Attorney General Ken Paxton, Gov. Greg Abbott’s statement on the verdict added one more exhibit supporting the argument that politics as usual were triumphant in the wake of the historic impeachment battle. Abbott’s statement was noticeably brief, in absolute terms and especially compared to the detailed statements issued by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick from the dais immediately after the Senate voted, and by Speaker of the House Dade Phelan in quick response. But the pithy sentence that capped Abbott’s (very) measured praise of Paxton spoke volumes with just a few words: “I look forward to continuing to work with him to secure the border and protect Texas from federal overreach."

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Jim Henson