Post Date: September 2020
In this week's Second Reading Podcast, Jim Henson talks to veteran political writer Mark Z. Barabak of The Los Angeles Times about the 2020 election. The conversation starts with a discussion of Mark's recent article with Jennie Jarvie and multiple TImes colleagus about the fears of voters across the spectrum about the aftermath of U.S. presidential election, and touches on the dynamics of the election as well his unique perspective on Kamala Harris's selection as the Democrats' vice-presidential ticket after writing observing her career and writing about her throughout her rise in Califonia politics.
The artifice and hyperbole inherent in the Hunter S. Thompson reference notwithstanding, the week's election news elicited genuine fear and sincere loathing. So with emotions high and the stakes for the political system even higher, this week’s post focuses on the escalating political fighting over the rules for the 2020 general election as voting procedures in Texas are being challenged on multiple fronts, and as the President all but promises that he will contest the outcome of the election if he doesn't win. On the same day that Donald Trump refused (the first time, anyway) to commit to accepting the results of the 2020 presidential election, a group of Texas Republicans was asking the Texas Supreme Court to reverse Governor Abbott’s extension of the early voting period. All of this overshadowed the state’s compliance this week with a federal court order requiring Texas to follow the 27-year old “motor voter” law by allowing Texans renewing their driver’s license online to also update their voter registration - a possible beachhead for belatedly bringing online voter registration to the state. As the week ended, the voting plot thickened still more, as the Texas Attorney General tried to highlight a voter fraud case involving absentee ballots in a primary race for county commissioner, and a federal judge sent shivers through the spines of county clerks by blocking the 2019 law ending straight-ticket voting in Texas. And as a backdrop to the swirling political and legal chaos around elections and voting, the Secretary of State announced an increase in registered voters (registration continued through October 5). These are all pieces of an important puzzle picturing the resilience of democracy in the state and the nation. With early voting set to start in Texas in less than three weeks (setting aside the lawsuit for the moment), as a wise observer once said, all the pieces matter. I took a little more time this week to put several of them together.
Senate District 30 Special Election Early Votes through Friday, September 25. Election Day for the special election is September 29.
In this week's podcast, Jim Henson and Joshua Blank look at public trust in Texas toward the U.S. Supreme Court and the other branches of government as a backdrop for Republican efforts to nominate and confirm a replacement for the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
Positive Thinking, Minus the Positivity: Texas Data Points for the Week in Politics, September 18, 2020
Governor Abbott started the weekend on Thursday by announcing that based on a new criteria, much of the state would be able to relax, though not remove, some of the restrictions on business and public activities. We also got to put a debate between Senator John Cornyn and challenger M.J. Hegar on our calendars this week (October 9), even as a report issued by a non-profit suggested that the pandemic resulted in a drop in new voter registration, at least in the spring. In other voting data that is equally unsurprising, very few people are voting in the Senate District 30 special election to replace Senator Pat Fallon. National Democrats' late summer confidence got a little shakier this week, especially as they pored over the ever-difficult-to-intrpret poll numbers among Latinos. And for much of the week, Donald Trump kept it up, raising the usual questions.
In this week's Second Reading Podcast, Jim Henson talks to Eric McDaniel about his recent research on threatened White masculinity, including the historical development of the phenomenon, some manifestaions McDaniel sees in contemporary politics, and his recent exploration of the concept using data from the June 2020 University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll.
The release of recordings of conversations between veteran journalist Bob Woodward and President Donald Trump as part of the Washington Post's rollout for Woodward’s second book about Trump, Rage, dominated coverage of politics, Trump, and COVID-19 this week. Senator Corynyn “in retrospect” opined that President Trump just maybe could have trusted the American people with “accurate information." Meanwhile, as part of his effort to get re-elected, Trump this week released a list of potential nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court that included, among other colorful characters, the junior U.S. Senator from Texas that the president used to call "Lyin’ Ted." Back in Ted Cruz’s home state, his former boss, Governor Greg Abbott, continued to avoid undue attention to COVID-19, channelling the president’s political turn to press a law and order argument with a new campaign pledge for Republicans and citizens (validated with your data), and still more proposals designed to punish cities ostensibly not toeing the blue line. And there’s a lot of stress in the state this week as many kids returned to whatever version of school is on offer in their neighborhood. Don’t panic, just read on for more Texas data related to these events from the week in Texas politics.
In this week's second reading podcast, Jim Henson and Josh Blank discuss polling best practices, disclosure, and developments in how news media outlets use polls.
Polling at both the national level and in Texas have increasingly shown partisan differences in attitudes toward the COVID-19 pandemic and in peoples’ reported behaviors in response to it. But an analysis of data in the June 2020 University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll finds evidence of another, potentially surprising political profile distinct from party in COVID responses: Perceptions of threat to White masculinity. The data and discussion that follows demonstrate a strong linkage between the perception of a threat to White masculinity and attitudes toward the coronavirus pandemic. In short: the more an individual believes in the existence of a threat to White masculinity, the more likely that person is to downplay the severity of the virus, to believe it will be resolved quickly, to focus more on the economic than human harm, and are less willing to take part in private activities to stop the spread of the virus.
President Trump took the discussions of mail-in voting through the looking glass when he urged supporters to vote by mail and to vote in person, too. While Attorney General Bill Barr testily and ineffectually tried to clean up Trump’s nihilistic weirdness (by suggesting that what he really meant was that Republicans’ voting by mail “have to go and check their vote by going to the poll and voting that way, because if it tabulates then they won't be able to do that”), Texas Republicans from both the executive and judicial branches were doing their best to stifle the attempted expansion of voting by mail in Harris County. As Trump’s latest election play unfolds in the choppy wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Greg Abbott floated the idea a relaxation of the statewide containment measures after the Labor Day holiday, seemingly not quite taking into account the lag effects in accounting for the community spread we saw after Memorial Day and the Fourth of July weekends earlier this summer, and even as pandemic data collection in Texas continue to leave a lot to be desired. Speaking of data, Comptroller Glen Hegar provided his offices’s regularly scheduled state revenue update, which enables us to look not only at quality monthly data but also provides a look at FY 2019. Much less useful was a recent release of Texas presidential polling, which got us on our soapbox about poll disclosure (sorry, though not a lot). Finally, a Texas Tribune/ProPublica report on the unsurprising news that a section of the border wall paid for as part of the ALLEGED “We Build the Wall” grift is likely to come tumbling down made us recall results from the UT/Texas Tribune Poll back when the wall was a thing. Find polling and other data on these topics in this week's Texas data points...