Maybe This Russia Case Should Be an X-File: Texas Data Points From the Week in Politics

Day-to-day breaking news on the various aspects of investigations of Russian tampering in the 2016 election and (increasingly) how the Trump White House has responded to the investigation dominated the national political news this week, with the early week looking bad for the FBI but the end of the week looking decidedly worse for the president. The big story from the previous week, the negotiations over immigration policy and the government shutdown, hovered ever so lightly over Dan Patrick’s first border-security and illegal immigration focused campaign video, in which the Lt. Governor signaled very strongly that he’s still behind the president. Yet within hours of the release of the governor’s video, the president was signaling his willingness to trade a path to citizenship for DACA recipients for border wall funding – which provided Senator Cruz the chance to raise his head above the hedge to shout his dissent. In two developments that remain secure from the ever-expanding storm of national politics, the special school finance commission met for the first time this week, and the first batch of legally grown marijuana in Texas made news. Continue on for Texas data on yet another week in politics that veered very unevenly between mystery and quirky humor.

1. The investigation of the Trump White House and related parties made news daily this week, peaking Thursday with a report in the New York Times by Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman suggesting that Trump wanted to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller back in June. Earlier in the week, the stories had focused on accusations by Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin that there was an anti-Trump “Secret Society” in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (since walked back), which cast a sinister pall on reports that thousands of messages between agents investigating Trump were missing. The former turned out to be a joke between some agents, and the latter turned out not to matter when the FBI let Congress know they had managed to recover the missing emails. Both the attempts to give these stories legs and the receptive audience are illuminated by partisan differences in perceptions of the FBI. Mulder and Scully are back again (on Fox), but the real FBI seems to need someone more like Efrem ZImbalist Jr. 

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Very favorable11%
Somewhat favorable34%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable24%
Somewhat unfavorable17%
Very unfavorable9%
Don’t know/no opinion5%

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Very favorable16%4%7%
Somewhat favorable34%28%36%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable29%20%18%
Somewhat unfavorable11%19%23%
Very unfavorable5%16%12%
Don’t know/no opinion5%12%3%

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Very favorable17%11%3%
Somewhat favorable37%35%30%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable27%20%15%
Somewhat unfavorable11%19%34%
Very unfavorable5%12%16%
Don’t know/no opinion4%3%1%

2. Dan Patrick released his first 2018 campaign ad, which is tuned to achieve harmonic convergence with the GOP base in Texas. The first lines: “I agree with Donald Trump: Our southern borders should be secure,” and cuts early to a picture of the Lt. Governor and the President. He takes credit for ending sanctuary cities and providing funds for border security, too, in contrast to “big city liberals who want open borders.” The attention to border security shouldn’t be surprising, but among those who see, or wish to see, the President as a liability to Texas Republicans, he’s not.



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Strongly support11%52%72%
Somewhat support12%16%16%
Somewhat oppose27%11%5%
Strongly oppose38%10%3%
Don't know/no opinion13%10%4%

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Local law enforcement agencies decide policies for their officers70%42%26%
Officers should always be able to question a person’s immigration status15%51%69%
Don't know/no opinion15%8%6%

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Approve strongly3%31%47%
Approve somewhat2%24%31%
Neither approve nor disapprove3%9%6%
Disapprove somewhat8%10%7%
Disapprove strongly84%25%8%
Don't know1%1%1%

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Approve strongly3%17%30%
Approve somewhat7%14%32%
Neither approve nor disapprove17%26%19%
Disapprove somewhat9%8%6%
Disapprove strongly49%20%3%
Don't know15%14%11%

3. But hold on – the President wants to cut a deal that trades a path to citizenship (did we hear the word “amnesty”?) for DACA recipients and some other immigrants for border wall funding. ‘Nuff said on all the frictions this causes in both caucuses at the national level, except to say that there MIGHT be a needle to be thread among Republicans given that attitudes toward DACA are, comparatively, less severe than are Republican impulses on immigration writ large.

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Don't know/no opinion7%10%13%

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Don't know/no opinion11%

4. But hold on again – Ted Cruz isn’t having it. Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur reports Texas' junior senator saying, “I do not believe we should be granting a path to citizenship to anybody here illegally...Doing so is inconsistent with the promises we made to the men and women who elected us.” It’s like 2013 all over again, when a buoyant young Cruz led the charge that ultimately felled a growing bipartisan effort at comprehensive immigration reform. Then, as now, his position is a relatively safe one in a state whose electorate is dominated by immigration hard-liners. But it’s hard not to wonder how far Cruz is willing to take the fight in light of his recent attempts to be collegial (at least within his own party).

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Strongly agree9%32%36%
Somewhat agree11%19%28%
Somewhat disagree21%24%21%
Strongly disagree53%22%12%
Don't know/No opinion6%3%3%

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Approve strongly4%19%34%
Approve somewhat7%18%31%
Neither approve nor disapprove10%19%14%
Disapprove somewhat13%13%12%
Disapprove strongly60%25%6%
Don't know6%6%3%

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Approve strongly3%23%33%
Approve somewhat4%18%31%
Neither approve nor disapprove6%16%11%
Disapprove somewhat11%8%10%
Disapprove strongly75%28%9%
Don't know2%7%6%

5. The legislatively-mandated special commission on school finance met this week, to much fanfare though not a whole lot more (yet), as Max Gorden reported for Spectrum News. The relevant public opinion context shows a Texas public seemingly willing to spend more money on public schools in the abstract, but very sensitive to trade-offs – especially with respect to their property taxes. Have we reached a critical mass that might alter either public willingness to accept the need for a revenue increase, or courage within the legislature? Early indicator: about the time the commission convened, Governor Abbott found a way to reiterate his commitment to “school choice” as part of the solution to the problem...

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Too much10%
Too little47%
About the right amount27%
Don't know/no opinion15%

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Too much4%8%17%
Too little69%41%28%
About the right amount13%29%41%
Don't know/no opinion15%22%15%

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Strongly support48%
Somewhat support29%
Somewhat oppose7%
Strongly oppose7%
Don't know8%

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Strongly support30%54%65%
Somewhat support32%29%26%
Somewhat oppose13%3%3%
Strongly oppose12%6%2%
Don't know12%7%4%

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Strongly support16%
Somewhat support26%
Somewhat oppose15%
Strongly oppose33%
Don't know10%

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Strongly support8%19%23%
Somewhat support19%25%32%
Somewhat oppose13%14%17%
Strongly oppose48%34%19%
Don't know11%9%9%

6. The cultivation of legal pot began this week Texas, per Justin Dehn's piece in The Texas Tribune (don't miss the very educational video). Now don’t go around asking where you can get yours, unless you have epilepsy and standard treatments haven’t worked for you. But more broadly, this is a big step for Texas on the legalization craze that appears to be slowly taking over the country – and it’s in line with Texans’ attitudes on the subject. In February of 2017, a minority of Texas voters believed that marijuana should be illegal in all circumstances (17 percent). Thirty percent said that it should be available for medicinal purposes, and a majority (53 percent) said that it should be available for recreational purposes. Assuming those who want it available recreationally wouldn't paradoxically reject the notion of medical marijuana, that makes 83 percent of Texans who are unlikely to be too concerned about this slight shift in Texas’ approach to marijuana.   

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Marijuana possession should not be legal under any circumstances.17%
Marijuana possession should be legal for medical purposes only.30%
Possession of small amounts of marijuana for any purpose should be legal.32%
Possession of any amount of marijuana for any purpose should be legal.21%

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Marijuana possession should not be legal under any circumstances.13%6%24%
Marijuana possession should be legal for medical purposes only.26%27%35%
Possession of small amounts of marijuana for any purpose should be legal.38%36%27%
Possession of any amount of marijuana for any purpose should be legal.24%32%14%

For a slightly more comprehensive look at this topic, here’s a blog post we wrote about this within the last few weeks.

7. Internecine skirmishing between factions in the Texas GOP as actual primary voting nears continued, with trade groups like the Texas Association of Realtors and the Texas Association of Manufacturers as well as ideological groups like Empower Texans releasing their endorsements for the Texas primaries. Over on the Democratic side, the AFL-CIO declined to endorse Beto O’Rourke in the primary after he missed their convention, per Patrick Svitek in the Texas Tribune, raising eyebrows aplenty – relatively speaking, of course. The endorsement battle and accompanying commentary has been particularly sharp in a couple of races likely not on the public's radar, but obsessing political insiders: Governor Greg Abbot's support of the primary challenge to House incumbent Sarah Davis by Susana Dokupil in House Districk 134 in Houston, and the GOP nomination race for Agriculture Commissioner pitting incumbent Sid Miller against lobbyist Trey Blocker. The Houston Chronicle's Andrea Zelinski got a zinger text from Chairwoman Davis in response to the challenger criticism that she failed on property tax reduction an other "empty promises" during the 85th in the former ("Not even the governor's millions can prop up Dokupil's dangerous opposition to vaccinations, her phony rhetoric on property taxes and her whacky idea to build colonies at sea"), and reported a good round-up on the latter. There was yet more news in that race at the end of the week with news that the Abbott campaign had paid for a Dopukil ad. Rumors remain unconfirmed, however, that the Jesus Shot is linked to alien conspiracy. You just can't keep national news out of state politics this cycle, even if it's fake.

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Conservative enough49%
Too conservative11%
Not conservative enough31%
Don't know/No opinion9%

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Liberal enough36%
Too liberal7%
Not liberal enough35%
Don't know/No opinion22%

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Should not14%
Don't know/no opinion11%

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Should not6%25%19%
Don't know/no opinion8%20%11%

REVISION NOTE:  this post was updated with additional data and a little new language on Saturday January 27 at 10:15 AM.