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More interesting questions from that Matthew McConaughey poll

Let’s try this again.

By 58% to 26%, Texans oppose a bill the House approved — and sent to the Senate Friday — that would allow people to carry handguns without a permit. Last month, opposition was greater — 64% to 23%.


In two polls by The News and UT-Tyler early last year, a majority of Texas registered voters endorsed a national ban on the sale of semiautomatic assault weapons. This month, that slipped to support by a plurality, 48% for and 33% against.


At the same time, confidence that elected officials are doing enough to prevent mass shootings has ebbed. In early 2020, not long after Trump, Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick mused publicly about possible gun law changes in the wake of the August 2019 slaughters in El Paso and Odessa-Midland, up to 47% of Texans agreed that elected officials were doing enough to avoid repetition of the tragedies.

This month, 38% agreed and 59% disagreed — including 86% of Black people, 65% of Hispanics and 46% of Republicans.

See here for yesterday’s post, here for my blogging on the March poll (I didn’t comment on the gun control aspects of it), here for the April poll data, and here for the March poll data. I cut out a couple of quotes from people about the gun question because I didn’t care about them. I don’t know if the change in the numbers from March are just normal float or perhaps the result of recent Republican messaging, but in either case that’s still a solid majority against the permitless carry bill. Maybe that should be a bigger campaign issue in 2022 than it has been in the past. Lots of other issues to talk about as well, to be sure, but there sure looks to be a lot of upside here.

Nearly half a century after the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy, a majority of Texans — and Republicans, if barely — said the court should not overturn Roe.

Among all Texas registered voters, 61% said Roe should not be overturned, while 37% said it should be. Republicans split 51%-49% against overturning, as did women, 63%-35%. White evangelicals favored voiding the controversial ruling, 56%-43%

Both GOP-controlled chambers of the Legislature are advancing a half dozen measures to restrict abortion.

In The News and UT-Tyler’s poll, a plurality of Texas registered voters (42%-37%) supported a Senate-passed bill that would ban virtually all abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually about six weeks into pregnancy, except in medical emergencies. Texas law currently bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy — or up to 22 weeks from the last menstrual period.

Though about two-thirds of Republicans and white evangelicals support the so-called “heartbeat” bill, women narrowly oppose it, 40%-38%, as do Democrats, 47%-31%.

The problem here of course is that heartbeat bills, which have been passed in other states and blocked by the courts, are a direct challenge to Roe. The main point to take away from all this is that voters are often confused on this issue because there’s a lot of jargon and misdirection involved in bills like these.

While a plurality of Texans approve of the overall job Biden is doing as president (48%-41%), a slight majority — 52% — disapprove of his performance at handling immigration at the border. Just 30% approve.

Abbott enjoys a higher job-approval rating among Texans than does Biden: 50% approve, 36% disapprove. But it’s Abbott’s lowest showing in eight tests by The News/UT-Tyler poll since January 2020 — and down from a high of 61% in April 2020. That’s when, near the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Texans appeared to rally around his shutdown orders.

Asked if they trusted the leaders to keep their communities healthy and safe during the public health crisis, Texans narrowly said they trust Biden, 51%-44%.

However, a narrow plurality now distrusts Abbott to protect their communities from COVID-19: 46% trust the Republican governor, 47% do not. It’s the first time in six polls that Abbott has sunk underwater on the question. In this month’s poll, he’s especially lost ground among independents (30% trust him, 59% distrust him) and Black people (20% trust, 71% distrust).

You can look at the baseline approve/disapprove numbers in the poll data, they’re on page 2 in each case. Not much has changed since March. The polls included the same questions for Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton, but so many people answered “Neither” to the approve/disapprove question for those two (37% for Patrick, 36% for Paxton), which I interpreted as mostly “don’t know”, that I don’t think there’s much value in those numbers. The main point here is that Biden continues to be above water in approval polling, and as long as that remains the case I believe Dems will have a more favorable climate in 2022 than they had in 2010 or 2014. Whether it’s as favorable as it was in 2018 is a different matter.

As for activities during the pandemic, Texans are more comfortable gathering with friends now: 44% are extremely comfortable, while only 23% felt that way in April 2020.

Texans are not as comfortable, though, being in crowds: 16% are extremely comfortable now, very close to the 15% who said they were extremely comfortable last April.

Sixty percent of Texans say they have been or definitely will be vaccinated against COVID-19, up from 57% last month. An additional 14% say they probably will get immunized. If they all do, as many as 74% could be inoculated, approaching the level many experts say is needed to achieve “herd immunity.” If all the state were Democrats, combining the three responses would produce an 89% acceptance rate, compared with 69% among Republicans and 66% among independents.

Could be worse. Given the data from some national polling, could be much worse. In the end, I think we’ll just have to see where we end up. If we get to over 70% in Texas, I’ll be pretty happy.

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One Comment

  1. Kibitzer says:


    Given the massive media coverage focused on just that one particular item, it is probably justified to call the DMN/UT TYLER survey “the McConaughey Poll”, but there is really much more to it.

    So, it’s good to see some additional analysis on Kuff’s blog, atop the critique of the limited usefulness of the McConaughey item yesterday, given the absence of a party affiliation and the omission of potential Democratic contenders for governor as a competitor for respondent preferences in a hypothetical ballot-choice scenario.

    On that angle, also see POLITICO story titled “The Empty Vessel of Matthew McConaughey. He’s polling well ahead of the current governor of Texas. Would he still be that popular if he stops flirting with it and actually, like, runs? ”


    Today, Kuff writes that “a narrow plurality now distrusts Abbott to protect their communities from COVID-19: 46% trust the Republican governor, 47% do not. It’s the first time in six polls that Abbott has sunk underwater on the question.”

    One could quibble with this.

    Given that the margin of error is reported at plus/minus 2.9%, and even larger including “design effects” (4.1%) there doesn’t seem to be enough of a gap here to reach a conclusion regarding Abbott going underwater or otherwise. The true value could be a majority on either side of the it’s-a-draw mark.

    What is more striking is the huge disparity in the evaluation of incumbent politicians by strong Democrats and Strong Republicans. We see pronounced polarization on those items, as well as on many of the policy-related attitudes.

    We also see notable differences between GOP Senator Cornyn and GOP Senator Cruz, with Cruz coming out as more polarizing than Cornyn (62% “Very unfavorable” among Dems vs. only 24% for Cornyn). This might be relevant to an assessments of Beto O’Rourke’s chances as a gubernatorial candidate based on his performance against Cruz in the 2018 Senate race. — Could a strategically fomented flare-up of Betomania bring down Abbott? Or was the progress he achieved for Democratic candidates in 2018 Cruz-specific and ephemeral?


    Note, however, that on the questionnaire item eliciting respondents’ ideological self-identification, the middle-ground is much stronger than what might be expected from the highly partisan distribution of responses in other parts of the survey (such as approval ratings, perceptions of problems, and policy attitudes).

    The electorate’s distribution along the political spectrum more closely approximates a bell curve, rather than exhibiting a polarized pattern, whether bi-modal or U-shaped. The explanation probably rests in question wording. Even Texans are apparently loath to describe themselves as “extreme”, but “extremists” are more numerous on the right wing of the spectrum.

    QUESTION: Using a 7-point scale where 1 is extremely liberal and 7 is extremely conservative, how would you rate your political views?

    1 Extremely Liberal 6%
    2 Liberal 8%
    3 Slightly Liberal 8%
    4 Moderate, Middle of the Road 31%
    5 Slightly Conservative 12%
    6 Conservative 17%
    7 Extremely Conservative 11%

    The residual response option here is “Don’t know”, which really doesn’t make much sense because ideological self-placement is subjective, rather than dependent on information, such as would be required to express opinions on named politicians.

    That interpretation — widespread reluctance to embrace extremism — is also supported by the distribution of responses to the party-identification question. There, the share of survey respondents identifying themselves as “strong” Democrats/Republicans is more than twice as large as the percentage applying the terms ‘extreme’ to their ideological orientation. 17% identify as Strong Democrat, 23% as Strong Republican.


    Democratic party leaders and their strategies ought to take note that their electoral constituency is not as extreme as they are, and that there are would-be supporters to appeal to in the semantic “middle of the road.”

    Also of note in that regard: 51% of Independents in the sample report not having voted in the last presidential elections.