Post Date: April 2020
Sheltering in Plain Sight: Some Data Points from the April 2020 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll
The latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll focused almost exclusively on Texans’ attitudes about the Coronavirus, its impact (including the economy), and the response of government and elected officials to the pandemic. We’ve already written about Texans’ struggle to reconcile powerful economic concerns with the widely (if not quite universally) acknowledged seriousness of the public health hazard confronting the country and the state, and provided a compendium of poll results related Texans’ views of Governor Greg Abbott as the twin crises wrack Texas. And, of course, Ross Ramsey and Brandon Formby wrote five stories about the poll in The Texas Tribune last Friday and Saturday (link, link, link, link, link). We pulled out several data points that might have gotten missed in the wealth of results from the first public poll in the state to focus on the coronavirus — and one point that no one should forget.
Gov. Greg Abbott faces pushback toward stay-at-home policy within his own party, but a larger number of Republicans are willing to take measures to protect public health.
Texans' views of Governor Greg Abbott and his handling of COVID-19 as Texas contemplates "opening up"
The latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll focused on attitudes toward the COVID-19 pandemic and the responses to it, and lands amidst widespread speculation about Governor Greg Abbott’s promised updates on modifications to the statewide stay-at-home orders he issued less than a month ago on April 2. That speculation is intense among Texans subject to it, but is also being anticipated at the national level given Texas’ role as a conservative policy bellwether as well as the criticism of other state’s seemingly premature loosening of their own stay at home measures (see Georgia).
With Abbott in the spotlight in the state and the nation Monday, we’ve gathered several results focused on attitudes toward the governor and the policies implemented in Texas by both Abbott and localities — and presumably subject to change.
What’s missing in prominent interpretations of Governor Greg Abbott's response to COVID-19 — the criticism of Abbott as pandering to his base and the president at the expense of public health, and the adjusted take that this is the judicious Abbott we’ve always known — is that both the substance of the order and the style in which he issued it are consistent with one of the throughlines of his governorship to date: His ambition to strengthen the role of the executive branch in Texas’s political order, while at the same time aligning his reframing of that political order with the dispositions of conservative voters in his party’s base. Yes, Abbott is both political and deliberate in his approach. But there is a larger orientation to both his politics and the style of his approach, and he is following this orientation in his approach to confronting the most serious conjunction of crises the state has faced in the experience of most living Texans. While his political needs and institutional strategy reflect specific ideological and policy choices, reducing them to pandering or an inapt temperament misses the overall arc of Abbott’s approach – and its implications for the state both in the immediate crisis and in its uncertain aftermath.