AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is sending 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the border and people are weighing in on Texas politics and politicians.
Three Things To Know In Texas Politics
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt.Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen called a joint news conference on Friday to announce 1,000 Texas National Guard troops are being sent to the Texas-Mexico border. They will help support new temporary holding facilities in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso that house adults. The Big 3 say the federal government will foot the bill.
Texas Monthly released its list of the best and worst legislators of 2019. Kicking off the Best List is newly appointed Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) and his second in charge, Speaker Pro-Tem Representative Joe Moody (D-El Paso). Two Austin-area lawmakers also made the Best List -- Rep. Donna Howard and Sen. Kirk Watson. When it comes to the Worst List, no Austin-area lawmaker was scrutinized, but Lt. Gov. Patrick is first on the list. Abbott's actions this session spurred the creation of a new award, Most Improved. The editors say Abbott seemingly changed his hands-off leadership style from the 2015 and 2017 sessions by engaging with lawmakers, and they gave him credit for helping the school finance and property tax reform bills cross the finish line.
The U.S. Census Bureau released new data this week on population growth. It shows the Hispanic population in Texas is growing rapidly. From 2017 to 2018, for every one white resident Texas gained, the state also gained nine Hispanic residents. Demographers predict Hispanics will surpass whites, becoming the majority in Texas, by 2022.
Jim Henson, Ph.D., director of the Texas Politics Project at UT
This week the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin and The Texas Tribune released the results of a June poll of Texas voters. They asked a variety of questions, from how Texans feel about abortion to how likely they are to vote for President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Jim Henson, Ph.D., director of the Texas Politics Project, sat down to talk about the findings.
Ashley Goudeau: First and foremost, let's talk about polling. You know it seems everyone has something to say about polls, but why are they still relevant and why do they still work?
Jim Henson: "In between elections public opinion polling tells us a lot about what's going on with the sentiment of voters, and non-voters for that matter. It's what helps inform the public with debate in terms of electoral politics. This poll had a lot of information about issues before the Legislature and what the Legislature was looking at. It also informs how political institutions work and it becomes part of the information flow."
Goudeau: And you all are very specific on who you poll. You specifically poll registered voters in Texas and you do it via the internet, and some people have things to say about that.
Henson: "Yeah, I mean I think that what's widely misunderstood right now is that, even though it's discussed a lot in the public sphere, is that polling is undergoing a fundamental shift as a result of changes in phone technology. The standard practices for decades was to take a random sample of people with landlines and call them up and then make slight adjustments to make sure that that sample was demographically representative. You can't really, frankly, do that very easily anymore. Phone response rates, I mean how often do you answer your phone if you don't know what the number is?"
Goudeau: And what landline?
Henson: "And what landline -- and there are legal limitations on calling cellphones. So you can make adjustments and buy cellphone samples and call people on their cellphones. But what we found is that there has been a really steep decline in phone response over the last couple of decades. The PEW Research Group, who does a lot of public opinion surveys, one of the major nonprofit, non-partisan institutes in the country, released a report earlier this year saying that their average response rate for a phone polls, both cellphone and landline, has gone down to about 6%. So that means if I want to go and get a sample of 600 people, I may have to make 10,000 phone calls or more to get that sample. And then we have to make adjustments based on that response rate because you are getting such a small response. So using the internet is something that we've been doing for about a decade now. There are trade-offs. It's what we call a non-probability sample, but it's representative. And the trade-off for not being random in the classic sense is that we know a lot more about our respondents and so, you know, we've gotten very good samples especially for political applications, and it's, you know, it's used everywhere from the New York Times to the major survey research studies in the country now."
Goudeau: So let's dive into these numbers. I think you guys found some interesting things about President Donald trump and his standing -- one, his approval rating, but then where he is going into the 2020 election, which is what everybody is talking about.
Henson: "We did. You know, Donald Trump is just such a polarizing but also energizing figure whether you like him or don't like him. You tend to like him a lot or you tend to not like him a lot. And so in terms of his approval ratings, he's looking pretty good In Texas overall. He had a 52% positive job approval, 44% disapproved. And that's not anything to necessarily write home about, but generally if you are over 50% you are in pretty good shape and that's much better than his national numbers which are, you know, sort of mired in the low to mid 40s. He hasn't really been able to hit 50 very consistently in most of the average national polls. In terms of his re-elect, it's a closer call at this point. We got a 50-50 split, which is, and it was as close, honestly Ashley, is as close to dead even as anything I think we've seen here in the last decade. We had to go about, had to check it to about three decimal points out, and so you had basically half saying they would vote to re-elect the president, half saying they would vote for someone else."
Goudeau: We've got a lot of Democrats, but let's just focus on the front runners, what are you seeing?
Henson: "Sure, well what we saw was interestingly enough, Texas isn't that different from the rest of the country. And no offense intended to Texans, but you know in this situation we see Joe Biden leading the pack with 23. There's a Texas element here in that Beto O'Rourke was behind him with 15%. It's much better than Beto O'Rourke is doing nationally. And that's a function of him being known in Texas, followed by Elizabeth Warren with 13% and then Bernie Sanders with 12. So those are the front runners. If you want to look at who's just bubbling under, Pete Buttigieg had 8%. Everyone else, you know, five or less."
Goudeau: Another thing that you all looked at in this poll is how Texas voters feel about voting when it comes to suppression and election fraud. Tell us about those numbers.
Henson: "You know, we've done this a couple of times and we've been tinkering a little bit. When we have a set of questions we call them batteries, you know, to be unnecessarily technical. But we had a battery of election questions where we asked people, questions that were trying to get at the predispositions and the partisan views that we think are out there in the electorate and that was largely a concern. So we asked Texans if they thought that, how frequently people that were not eligible to vote voted. And you know it was divided relatively evenly, but it's divided relatively evenly because partisans are completely split on this. So a big chunk of Republicans are likely to say that, that people who are ineligible to vote wind up voting very frequently. Very few Democrats say that. But then when we asked if you think the voting and elections system is unfair or biased against racial and ethnic minorities, the Republican numbers go way down and the Democratic numbers go way up."
Goudeau: Why is that important?
Henson: "The numbers of people in each party that question the integrity of the voting system, but for their own partisan reasons, poses a real difficulty and something that I think we really need to pay more attention to. We probably need to do more to reassure people that elected officials are able to reconcile these political differences and come to some kind of compromise, neutral ground in which everyone can come out and assure their own partisans that the electoral system is clean, valid and something that they can trust."
Goudeau: Because if not, we have policy that will be developed that will then swings to either extreme, right?
Henson: "Yeah and I think we're seeing that tendency more and more. And I think at the same time we're seeing other tendencies of people to be deeply suspicious and to lose faith in political institutions. You know this would be one possible starting point to try to find some type of, even if it's purely transactional, neutral ground or ground for compromise and come out and do things that reassure the public that the voting system works and that they can trust it and they should engage it."
The Last Word
This week, Ashley weighs in on a report from the Associated Press, detailing the living conditions of some migrant children in Texas.