Jim & Josh discuss results from a new UT/Texas Politics Project Poll that finds Republican still divided or withholding judgment with suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton’s trial is set to begin.
Intro: [00:00:00] Welcome to the second reading podcast from the University of Texas at Austin. The Republicans were in the Democratic Party because there was only one party. Sir, I tell people on a regular basis, there is still a land of opportunity in America. It’s called Texas. The problem is these departures from the Constitution, they have become the norm. At what point? Must a female Senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room.
Jim Henson: And welcome back to the Second Reading Podcast. I’m Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. Happy to be joined on, you know, for us, kind of an exciting day by Josh Blank, research director for the Texas Politics Project.
Exciting is maybe a strong word, but you know, energetic. Yeah. Energizing. Yeah.
Josh Blank: Okay. Yeah. Energize. I think exciting is fine. Yeah. You
Jim Henson: know, we can, we can admit we get [00:01:00] excited by these things. I think that’s good.
Josh Blank: This is good. I like this. This is building tension. Right. Excitement in the audience.
Jim Henson: So, you know, as you might imagine, we have some new polling data.
We know our listeners know what actually excites us. So, so we have some new, uh, polling data from a new University of Texas, Texas politics project poll that shed some light and maybe, you know, some shadows on the dominant story right now in Texas politics, which is of course, the impeachment trial of suspended attorney general Ken Paxton, which is set to begin in the Texas Senate.
On September 5th, right after Labor Day, the data was collected from August 18th to the 29th. So it’s very fresh, uh, essentially from last week we’re recording on Thursday and you should be hearing this at the earliest on Friday. We’ve excerpted the Paxton data from that poll for early release, giving that the trial is coming up [00:02:00] after the long weekend.
And so parenthetically. Keep an eye out next week for the rest of the data that we did do our usual complete poll, 15 minute poll, uh, which has a lot of very interesting kind of zeitgeisty results. At least that’s how it was written. Um, yeah, how we were thinking about it at the time, in addition to, you know, usual issues of the moment and in our trend data, et cetera.
So for today with the Paxton trial looming large, let’s dive right into it. Let’s just start by looking at the top lines on the main questions that we’ve released relating to Ken Paxton. So why don’t you start us out on that,
Josh Blank: Josh? Yeah, let’s, let’s get, let’s, let’s dispense with the foreplay. You know, let’s go straight to the question.
You know, do you think that Ken Paxton took actions while attorney general that justify removing him from office? So from our sample of registered voters, what we found was 47% said yes. Ken Paxton has taken actions while Attorney General just by removing him from office. 18% said no. [00:03:00] 35% said don’t know no opinion.
So, you know, a strong plurality saying yes with a, you know, a significant portion about a little more than a third of the electorate saying, you know, at this point, you know, they don’t, they don’t know. They’re not sure. Right. Uh, should we jump into the partisans or do you want
Jim Henson: to stick with the top? Well, let’s go back to the partisans.
I mean, yeah, I did, you know, jump into the partisans as long as we’re here. We’ll come back and do
Josh Blank: something. I think we need to just to, to, to unpack that number a little more anyway. I think that makes sense. So it’s unsurprising to find, you know, most Democrats, 71% say yes, Ken Paxton, you know, has done things that justify removing from office.
Only 8% say no, only about one in five don’t have an opinion on that. Among Republicans, what you find is, you know, a big split, and this is going to be a pretty consistent pattern here. plurality had no opinion. They’re not, they’re not sure whether he’s done anything as a trade general just by removing him from office.
But nearly a quarter, 24% say yes, he has and should be removed. 32%, about a third, say no, he hasn’t. It’s pretty even. Among independents, the numbers are a little bit [00:04:00] more lopsided. Uh, against Ken Paxman, though, again, with a large share of the plurality, 44% saying they don’t have an opinion, but 42% say that he should be removed from office with only 14% saying that he shouldn’t.
Jim Henson: And this is probably, you know, we do this all the time where we provide the methodological note that, you know, our, our mode of approaching this, those independents are what we call true independence. So we have taken. People that initially identify, respondents who initially identify as independent, but then on a follow up say that they lean towards one of the parties and we have folded the leaners into the partisans and looking at, you know, we don’t have to crawl down this rabbit hole right now, but in looking at some of the seven point numbers, this is another one of those cases where if somebody asks us why we do that, I would show them this data.
Yeah, exactly. You know, all I mean by that is the, the independents that say that they lean one way or the other. Look more like the strong partisans than they do the weak partisans, let alone [00:05:00] the true independence.
Josh Blank: Yeah, and there’s a whole long discussion and engagement going about on in the universe of political science elsewhere about whether you should do that or not.
But from the standpoint of just studying. Public opinion, what Jim said, I think is the operative point at this point. Anyway, moving on, you know, we repeated a question that we asked back in June, whether or not, uh, the Texas house was justified in impeaching attorney general Ken Paxson. And interestingly here, what we found was from June to August, despite, you know, all the attention, all the coverage, the, you know, the document dump.
Yeah. Uh, everything else. These numbers did not move. Uh, 50% of Texans, Texas voters in June said that the House was justified in impeaching Ken Baxton. In August, 50% say that they are justified. In fact, the numbers are exactly the same. 17% say they were not justified in both polls. And 33% a third don’t know.
So those numbers have sat and then we’ll come back to that, but that’s, it’s sort of interesting in and of itself. And then the other sort of big top line, you know, number is Praxton approval. [00:06:00] And this is maybe, you know, one of the, you know, spicier results in some ways right now, you know, without getting, we’ll get into some of the details of this overall packs and job approval right now said sits at 27% approve 46%.
Disapprove for a net of negative 19 now among Democrats, not surprisingly, 69% disapproved, 12% approve, but among Republicans, you know, we see 46% approving to 23% disapproving, which is, you know, it doesn’t sound terrible on its face, but when you start to look into the trend data and what we’ve seen in the past, it’s not a good look.
Jim Henson: Both trend and intensity. Uh, you know, only 21% of those Republicans say that they approve strongly that about a fifth of Republicans is an interesting kind of marker in a couple of different ways. Right. So, so some takeaways from the results, what, you know, what do we make about the make of this? I mean, you know, I think as Josh said, in looking in talking about the, some of the numbers [00:07:00] he just, that he just, you know, shared with you, despite the preoccupation with this You know, bit unambiguously big historical moment among people that are in or near the process or, you know, probably listen to this podcast or political junkies.
If you want to use that term, you know, our indicators of attention to the matter remained. Really very static. So we may have spent our summer and by we, it’s the, yeah, the collective, we Josh and I, and all of you out there, um, our friends, we may have spent our summer thinking about this and anticipating the trial and parsing it, you know, around the pool over beers, over meals.
It just, but it hasn’t gained in salience to
Josh Blank: most Texans. Yeah. And this is something that, you know, I think. You know, I, I hate when this happens, but I also somewhat hardened by it, you know, and that’s probably reasonable, you know, we think about the timeframe we’re talking about here. We’re talking about from, from June to August.
[00:08:00] We’re talking about the dog days of summer. We’re talking about a time when, you know, most people, we, we, we, we know if we were talking about anything else, we would say, well, this is when people aren’t paying attention. I mean, in some ways, I think maybe early on when this began, I mean, if we, I don’t know if we talked about, you know, the potential timing of the trial before it was set during the podcast, but there, there was, you know, I mean, there’s some.
Hmm. I mean, I was having some thoughts at the time about, you know, well, if they really wanted to just kind of bury this thing, do it in July, you know, and by Barry, I don’t mean you’re able to bury it, but, you know, limit the amount of attention that would be, that would be brought to this, you know, that would be kind of when you would do this, you know, now, I mean, it’s kind of interesting speaks to the fact that in some ways you’d say, okay, yes, people haven’t been paid paying attention to it, but now actually that the kids are back to school, people are getting back into kind of fall routines.
The temperature is coming down. Is it like the actual temperature, not the political temperature? It’ll be interesting to see what happens as, as, as attention turns. You know, as I say, as the political space in Texas is so universally focused on this one thing. And that’s the other thing too. There were other things competing this summer.
They’re still [00:09:00] competing, having to do with like the border.
Jim Henson: Yeah. You know, but both the state level and certainly at the national level, I mean, the Trump. You know, it’s been a very active summer for former President Trump and his legal
Josh Blank: travails put, put, put another way. This is one story among many for voters to choose to ignore.
Jim Henson: Right? And, and the baseline on this is a lot, you know, it was a lot lower, you know, in terms of just what we think of when we think about, Um, People’s general knowledge and awareness of any attorney general, not just this one. That’s right. And
Josh Blank: that’s the thing I think it’s important to, you know, is when we’re talking about statewide, you know, statewide elected officials and their profiles, you know, the attorney general is a little bit down the list.
You know, he’s not the governor, you know, his numbers have historically look closer to that of the lieutenant governors. And so there’s a larger share of people who don’t hold an opinion, uh, about him. And so what we found, you know, just to put the actual numbers out there, cause I don’t think we’ve actually covered them yet.
Only 31% of voters say that they’ve heard a lot about. Ken Paxton’s legal problems, which is the same as in June and the share who say that they’ve heard a lot about the trial, [00:10:00] the impeachment and the upcoming trial is a little bit less than that, which is also kind of what we would expect at this point given the trial hasn’t actually started in earnest.
And it’s more
Jim Henson: specific. It’s a more specific,
Josh Blank: more specific as opposed to all the possible things you might’ve heard about his legal problems. But the, but the, but the point remains, you know, there’s about a third of Texans who’ve been paying a lot of attention to this, you know, or maintaining that level of attention.
And, you know, again, just, you know, say we’ll see what happens over the course of the trial, whether, you know, whether that number ticks up or not. I think there’s reason to suspect it will, both because of, you know, the duration of the trial and the intensity of coverage, but also the fact that it’s not summer at the same time, you know, there are a lot of other stories out there that are competing for attention.
And, you know, we’ll We’ll see, this is pretty, you know, There are a lot of people in court
Jim Henson: right now. There are a lot of people in court right now. So given that is, you know, given these top lines, given what we’ve talked about this generally, you know, it, it seemed like, you know, we should talk about the upsides and downsides of this data for the two sides in the trial and, and for the attorney [00:11:00] general himself.
What do you know? So, so, so what do you think? Like, you know, let’s start, you know, let’s start with, you know, some indications that there’s If you’re an ally of, of Attorney General Paxson or your Attorney General Paxson, you can see some upsides here, I think.
Josh Blank: Yeah, I think so. I mean, if, if They’re not huge, but they’re there.
No, I mean, look, if you look at the, at the mainstream media coverage that, you know, has taken place over the course of the summer, which is sort of, you know, I think, re Not litigate. It’s not the right word at this point, but sort of rehashed a lot of the allegations against Pax and both, you know, really specifically to the impeachment, but sort of, you know, over the course of his entirety in office.
Jim Henson: Yeah. I mean, what I would say, you know, I mean, they’ve it’s not as much, you know, I mean, this is just picking words. No, it’s fine. But I mean, I think that it’s not even so much, it’s been a rehash, but it’s because There has been a lot of revelation of the particulars and, you know, that’s part of the, the, the evidence gathering and
Josh Blank: disclosure process.
I think [00:12:00] I have a very like unique view on this, which is sort of as someone who, you know, follows all this stuff, you know, almost, you know, so closely that it could be considered a problem. It’s sort of like, okay, you know, if you’ve been following it as closely as I have, or, you know, we have, or whatever, or some of you have, you know, it’s sort of like there were these revelations, you know, months and months and months, if not years ago, and then to the extent that like more detail have come out that have confirmed And Yeah, those revelations to me.
It doesn’t feel new, but I think the reality is it doesn’t change the fact that when you put, you know, meat on the bones, it does make it more real. And I think that’s the thing. Well, I think
Jim Henson: the mechanism of that is important, right? Because what’s happened is, you know, we’ve had this back and forth, you know, a lot of motions and, you know, that spread out through June, July, August.
When, you know, regular people weren’t paying attention, but we’ve seen the release of, you know, a lot of motions, volumes of evidence, right? And then numerous new stories that have come out as reporters dig through all that evidence, right? And I think those mechanisms are kind [00:13:00] of interesting and important, you know, to think about all that is going on.
And, you know, there’s been some very good reporting and as I think, as we were talking, as we discussed last week, you know, some of those motions for people like us were very interesting, sophisticated, everything from the nitty gritty, sometimes kind of grimy details to large, you know, sort of big consequential constitutional systemic arguments.
And none of that’s really seemed to have landed with
Josh Blank: the public very much. Yeah. And I think, you know, that’s a, that’s a win for Paxton. I mean, I think, you know, to the extent that if you think of the point, if you think about, you know, the, the coverage, you know, from the last few weeks around the house manager’s response to Paxton’s motions that included sort of this 4, 000 page, you know, data dump that released all these new details to be covered.
The fact is, is that doesn’t seem to have moved the public dramatically or, you know, again, given limited attention, either move them or, or drawn or drawn their attention. So that’s definitely a win [00:14:00] for Paxton on the political side of this. You know, there’s another, you know, a result in this poll. That’s also, I think, you know, a political win for Paxton, which is we asked, uh, another question we asked basically is, you know, do you think that this investigation and the impeachment is mostly based on the facts?
Mostly based on politics,
Jim Henson: you know, a question, you know, sort of, we’ve seen a lot at the, at the national level. Right. And not regarding,
Josh Blank: regarding former President Trump. Right. And, and you know, and we, we may have asked similar types, que types of questions about, about the president that we’ll talk about next week.
And the points of comparison and differences are interested in and of themselves. But the baseline response, that’s a teaser, that’s a teaser. The baseline response among Republicans. You know, when asked this question about the impeachment trial here, It’s to say, you know, on balance, it’s, it’s more based on politics than, than based on facts.
So overall, 47% of voters say it’s mostly based on facts, 28% mostly based on politics. But when you look at Republicans, those numbers are basically flipped. 48% say it’s mostly based on politics. 23% say it’s mostly based on facts. For Democrats, [00:15:00] you know, three quarters say it’s mostly based on facts.
Independence, more say it’s based on facts and based on politics. But I think we have to take this in the context of like what we already said before, which is that people aren’t attending to this that much. So I, when I look at this, I really, the way we set this up is I think the way that I would interpret this, which is, you know, this is really a pretty good reflection of some of the baseline response.
And I think, the point of this is in the packs and upside section of this discussion, this is, I think, you know, whether this is The baseline attitudes that this is just a political squabble, whatever, or whether, you know, the messaging that’s kind of been put out about the idea that like, well, you know, this is about a democratic run house or this is about, you know, so and so doesn’t like Ken Paxton or so and so wants to be attorney general.
You know, whether you think those arguments are patently ridiculous and unfounded, or you believe that they make sense, the reality is that there’s a, there’s a baseline, I think, you know, view in the Republican party, especially to sort of be ready to accept this notion that this is just politics. It’s almost a reflex.
These are, yeah, these are [00:16:00] politicians having a political fight. So yeah, whatever. Right. And to
Jim Henson: repeat that number, that’s, you know, that’s 48% of Republicans. You know, with only a little less than a quarter saying, you know, 23% saying that it was mostly based on the fact. And then the rest, roughly another quarter saying that they, they don’t know, haven’t made up their mind, you know, don’t offer an
Josh Blank: opinion.
Right. So that’s, I think that’s something that for PACS you know, you think they’re going to want to lean into that more and more that this is, you know, I mean, it’s interesting in some ways from the, you know, from the moat, you know, going back and forth, how this jumps in and out of these different sort of, you know, dimensions of things, you know, from the side of the legal motions, they want to say this is a criminal process, not a political process.
But actually, you know, from the public side, the idea that this is some political process run amok is actually something that, you know, probably provides them a little bit of value in their base.
Jim Henson: In the absence of, yeah, I mean, yeah, I think, I think as the starting point, it’s a good one for them right now, whether that will carry the day.
I mean, but, but, you know, to, to, to look at this fairly to their eyes, I mean, you know, and again, [00:17:00] it’s good to keep in mind the mechanisms, right. Then the jury is the Senate. They are elected officials. Democrats are almost. Guaranteed to be negative votes to be, to be votes against Paxton in some form or another.
And so you’re looking at Republican public opinion here as a way of, you know, sort of trying to figure out on both sides how, how senators are going to evaluate thrown electoral self interest
Josh Blank: in this. Well, and it speaks to the messages being thrown out there by Paxton allies, you know, sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly when they say, boy, there’s a lot of Republican senators who’d like to be attorney general.
Right. And this is like, this is what they’re, they’re speaking to when, when they say that,
Jim Henson: which also does not make it untrue. It does not make it
Josh Blank: untrue.
Jim Henson: We should, we should say sure. It’s not the implication there now. Um, but the implication about how it lands among voters. Yes. Right. So, okay. So the, you know, so there are some things for attorney general.
In these numbers that give them something to work with, or maybe, you know, might [00:18:00] make them feel better, but more practically give them something to work with as they think about what their strategy is. But, you know, you can look at this class as half empty as well. You know, the numbers in August, they haven’t changed, but they weren’t really great for him to begin with.
Right. I mean, most importantly. You know, in the near terms, I was saying, you know, among the Republican voters who are the constituents and voters of the jury of senators, Republicans as a group, and we were talking about the word to use for this, and there’s more than one word because we don’t know for sure, can be seen as a group as either ambivalent or perhaps a little bit shading better for the Attorney General, maybe, are withholding judgment, right?
Right. You know, and so that’s on balance, I would have to say that It makes it harder for Paxton. Let’s put it that way that you’ve got a lot of, you know, if you’ve got a big chunk of voters, really, the majority of voters are made up of people of Republican voters who are either leaning against you [00:19:00] or are open to the evidence and to maybe having their mind changed as the trial starts.
That’s going to really be about, yeah. Presenting a lot of evidence. Well, you
Josh Blank: know, it’s funny. I mean, like, and this is just, you know, say it’s a, what a shoddy social scientist I might be. I mean, you can use the same evidence to point either direction, right? So the same evidence that we said, you know, it was kind of good for packs and the fact that there wasn’t a big shift in the electorate and their attitudes due to, you know, again, all the disclosures that came out over the last few weeks and months, you know, that’s just something that, you know, again.
They can hang their hat on say, okay, good. We’ve gone through some of this. The flip side of that is, you know, I think one of the things that I was curious about in this poll was the extent to which, you know, many of the direct appeals and we’ve talked to, and I’ve talked a lot here about the information asymmetry here, you know, and there are groups who are.
Actively working spending on Paxton’s behalf, more or less to make the case to Republicans that basically he should not be impeached or this process is a sham. I mean, it’s interesting. I drove to Houston and back over the last weekend. You see all [00:20:00] the billboards up, you know, talking about how this is this is a democratic power grab and all these things.
But there’s also no indication that that’s worked either, at least in the, in the broader electorate. Now, look, I mean, I should say those billboards didn’t just appear now. And the thing is now, look, now we’re talking about the entire statewide electorate, the entire statewide pool of Republican voters.
The reality is, is I think, you know, as some reporting is indicating, you know, they’re definitely starting to target those appeals very specifically to specific Senate districts. However, you know, again, this is in the glass half full for. You know, we’re classes have empty for packs. Now half full for the house managers, you know, at the same time, it doesn’t appear as though, you know, we came, like, we didn’t come back with a date and found, oh, you know, now 75% of Republicans say the house was unjustified and impeaching him.
And, you know, he should be let off. It’s, that’s not the picture we’re painting. That’s not the picture of the public’s painting. And so that definitely, you know, I think, you know, the house managers have also escaped this window of trying of this sort of attempts to persuade the public before the trial happens.
Jim Henson: And I think it’s fair to think about, you know, your [00:21:00] average person or, you know, we don’t even have to say your average person, a person that doesn’t follow politics a lot, you know, driving their kid between Austin and Houston for a soccer tournament or something, and they see this sign and how many people go.
What is that? What is that? And then the other person, you know, certain car goes, yeah, you know, uh, some political thing. Yeah. I don’t know. You know, I mean, right. They’re at it again. You know, it’s an interesting tactic. We do see that there is support for Paxton where you would expect it to some degree, but even that is not quite as vigorous as one might think.
You were looking at the. The, the numbers, you know, look at some of the, you know, the very precise tabs, uh, in the, in the latest poll among people who identify is extremely conservative. He’s got a little more than half,
Josh Blank: right? Yeah. His job approval is at 54%, you know, 17% difference approved. 29% don’t know. I mean, You know, I think those are fine numbers, but not for Ken [00:22:00] Paxton, you know, I think that’s kind of the way you, you want, you would look at that, right?
I mean, for someone who’s really based and staked his career on his people, these are his people. And so I think, you know, that’s, that’s, that’s going to be a problem for him. But, you know, again, it’s not. Overwhelming at this point.
Jim Henson: It’s not terrible. No, it’s not. Just not very good.
Josh Blank: It’s just not very good.
Right. Disappointing. Disappointing. Right.
Jim Henson: And similar with, you know, you know, I mean, you, I think you pulled out frequent church attendees. Yeah. We have a few different measures of this.
Josh Blank: Right. And this is people who attend church more than once a week. Basically, and you know, here we find 44% approving of his job performance, 28% disapproving 30% don’t know.
Now, again, that’s gonna be a mix of some Democrats, some Republicans, but generally speaking, more Republicans and Democrats. And so that’s again, you know, looking at his constituency, that’s not exactly where he wants to be, but You know, but this also fits into sort of, again, in terms of the bad news for Pax, and this fits into sort of the, the bigger picture of, I think maybe some of the worst news for him in all of this, which is just his overall job approval numbers, right?
Jim Henson: you, you promised we’d come back to that and we’ve kind of transitioned into that. So, you [00:23:00] know, even though most of the. You know, data shows that the direct judgments about the impeachment trial removal process and even awareness were pretty, you know, more or less static. There was some movement in his job approval numbers, right?
And it was not in the right direction for
Josh Blank: him. Right. So, I mean, you can pick any point in time. I mean, I think it’s interesting to go back to December of 2022 because it was a high point for Paxson. He just won re election, you know, statewide, his approval was 41 approved, 37 disapproved, which doesn’t sound, you know, Amazing.
But again, this is a, this is a competitive state in terms of, you know, in terms of the electorate, there’s a lot of Democrats. There’s more Republicans. Generally, we don’t see anybody blowing these numbers out of the water. So if you’re on the right side, you feel pretty good about it. He was plus four then, right?
You know, we looked to, you know, after the impeachment in June, uh, his approval went from 41 in December down to 30. Right. Even, even from April, it dropped nine points from 39 to 30 in June, and then it dropped another three points in August down to 27, looking to get it as disapproval went from 35 in [00:24:00] April to 41 in June to 46 in August.
And, you know, so one, these represent the lowest approval numbers of, you know, basically at least our time series going back to April of 2021, uh, the highest disapproval numbers. And, but most importantly, you know, this isn’t. Entirely a democratic phenomena here. So what we also find is he’s got his highest.
I’m sorry, his lowest approval numbers among Republicans in the time series is only at 46% approving. You know, he’s been as high as 73% his poll. He was even 51 in June. He was 65 before the impeachment and for two surveys in both February and April among Republicans. So he’s dropped almost 20 points in his approval among Republican voters.
And then his disapproval is up to 23 points. If we go back again to it. To February of 2023, the beginning of the year, he only had 9% disapproving that in April is 13 June. It’s 19 August. It’s 23. So there is movement going on and it’s not in the right direction. The trend, the trend for Paxton is not, you know, [00:25:00] going in the way that he’d like it
Jim Henson: to, right?
And, you know, there’s something, you know, interesting to me about that. I mean, we always talk about, I mean, we thought, you know, we asked people these specific processes. Yeah. And we get these static results, but the overall, you know, I mean, it’s, you know, it leads one to kind of think that whether you ask somebody, are you paying attention to this?
They know that, you know, for some people it’s kind of seeping in. It’s in the
Josh Blank: ether. I mean, that’s the thing. I think I agree with that. I mean, I think it’s, it’s in the ether. And then part of it is just like, you know, you may not be listening, but you know, you are, I mean, to some extent, I think there is like some basic catalog and to the extent that, you know, if you listen to drive time radio, you listen to whatever, even if you’re not.
Listening closely or drawing significant conclusions or really trying to, you know, pull out the detail. The main point is, is that, you know, for the last month and a half or more, you know, well, actually really the whole entirety of the summer, if you see Paxton’s name in the news, it’s attached to something negative, right?
And I think that’s what you’re kind of seeing there, even if you’re not necessarily sure about the details and then look, the details are complicated. I’m having lots of people who know things and [00:26:00] follow this stuff even reasonably closely asks me about the details and say, oh, okay. I didn’t realize that, like, that’s what this is.
Jim Henson: all these things are connected. You know, that’s, that’s what they’re talking about. And this is how they’re all connected. Here’s the
Josh Blank: thing. I mean, just to be fair, like if I were to say, I don’t know, I don’t want you to answer this question, but thank you. But if I were to say to you, or if someone were to say to me, Hey, what is this pass an impeachment trial really about?
I’d have to sit and think for a second about how I’d like, what would I respond with first? What would I say is, you know, well, the thing that’s really the problem is this, or it’s really that or whatever. I mean, you know, in some ways what comes to my mind is actually a political responses. You know, he went to the house and asked for 3.
3 million and didn’t want to tell him why. You know, which does sound kind of like a political thing, but there is a lot under the, under this that is sort of, you know, it’s complicated and it’s detailed and that’s just not for most people, right? No,
Jim Henson: I think that’s fair. Now, uh, you know, we’re going to wind down, but I will, you know, we’ll, we’ll end on a nerdy note, uh, a nerdy slope, you know, slash arguing with [00:27:00] ourselves.
No, it does seem to me, you know, possibly fair than an astute listener, whether. Pro Paxton, anti Paxton, or just neutral, or just hostile towards us, or whatever, you know, might, might ask, you know, given that he’s suspended, he’s been suspended from his job since June, isn’t talking about these job approval numbers a little weird?
I mean, on one sense, if the guy hasn’t been in his job, yeah, his job approval numbers are going to go down. And I, you know, and I think that’s, that’s fair. And I guess we thought about this because we didn’t, we tweaked. We tweaked the wording slightly, right? We
Josh Blank: basically said has done as opposed to is
Jim Henson: doing right.
So, you know, on every other job approval for an incumbent, we say, you know, how would you say, yeah, governor Abbott or whoever
Josh Blank: is doing as governor is doing as lieutenant governor. Yeah. How
Jim Henson: good a job is it? Yeah. How would you, how would you rate the job he’s doing as governor or whatever? So we use present tense.
And in this, we just. We tweaked. We tweaked it ever so slightly. Now I could see where people, well, you know,
Josh Blank: yeah, look, I think, I mean, look, [00:28:00] it’s fair. And this is one of those things where, you know, you’re, you know, I’m just going to appeal to my own authority, you know, and what I’m going to say is, is, you know, having done this for a long time, I would say, you know, look, I think that’s a valid criticism.
Do I think that would account for a few points? Maybe. Cause there could look, the, the argument is there’s some Republicans out there who, who love Ken Paxson and say, you know, the way that guy screwed up was getting impeached. Yeah. And I don’t like that. I, he should be getting back to the job and doing it right now.
Look. Do I think that accounts for the, the, the numbers we’re seeing here? No, because when we look at the other numbers, right, what we find is Republicans sort of, you know, again, mostly kind of split on this issue, right? Which means there’s, there’s lots of Republicans out there, honestly, who, you know, think the house was justified in impeaching him, who think he’s done something wrong.
And may, you know, have ultimately updated their judgment. That’s the much more plausible scenario that explains where most of this change has come from. I’m not saying some of it might not have come from some people who think like, well, yeah, he [00:29:00] screwed up cause he’s not a G anymore.
Jim Henson: Yeah. How could he be doing a good job if he’s not in the job?
Josh Blank: If I were just pulling a number out of wherever I’d say, yeah, maybe that accounts for like four percentage points. Maybe, because again, that really implies a much more sophisticated read of what’s going on than most of what we’d expect.
Jim Henson: Yeah, and I think it’s fair as we talk about, you
Josh Blank: know, That’s,
Jim Henson: that’s not too dismissive.
Well, you know, I mean, I, I think, you know, when we talk about the general sense of, again, this kind of ambient awareness because of, you know, without a whole lot of attention, the decline over time does tell us, You know, something about, you know, a weakening in the sturdiness of his support. Yeah, yeah. I think that’s right.
You know, because even if people are going to not give him a positive job rating because they say, well, he got kicked out of the job, but otherwise he was great, that’s a lot of things. And, and, and it’s still in the end, a negative judgment.
Josh Blank: Well, look, I’m going to say this way, you know, With another famous Republican politician who’s had lots of legal problems, we see no such [00:30:00] significant decline in assessments
Jim Henson: of him.
Yeah. And I think that’s, and I think that’s a good, you know, as we, as we wind it down and kind of step back, that’s a good meta point here. I wouldn’t and can’t. Speak for what the attorney general or his supporters might be thinking strategically and in terms of, you know, looking at the national environment and thinking that the way that former President Trump has handled this in some ways.
Is maybe a good model. And I, you know, I can do that too. You know, and there has been some indications of, you know, delay tactics and attacking the media, calling it all politics, which does have some resonance. But I think, you know, and we’ll be able to elaborate this a little bit more, but even based on trend data to date, it’s pretty clear that Ken Paxton is not Donald Trump in terms of the depth of attachment.
Um, and, and, you know, the kind of, you know, fierce allegiance that we see among Republicans [00:31:00] to Donald Trump and in the face of great adversity and, and. Negative context, you know, any number of, you know, negative stimulation writ large, right? I think that that’s one of the things that you have to kind of compare this, and that’s a little bit of a teaser for next week, you know, I mean, so I, you know, you wind this up, you know, to be a little repetitive, maybe, I mean, it does seem that trying to figure out.
You know, what people are, you know, what people might make of these numbers. There are some aspects of this that give the attorney general something to work with, you know, particularly this idea that there is kind of a baseline assumption that doesn’t just apply to him that he can tap into. That almost any kind of conflict you see is mostly about politics.
Yeah, political vendettas. The process is going to be about politics, and it’s not going to be about the institutional stakes that we’ve talked about. But that said, it does seem likely that in the near term, [00:32:00] As the media coverage ramps up dramatically and look, you know, you and I both know from, you know, talking to reporters and phone calls, we’re getting a little experiencing this, that there is going to be a lot of coverage and it’s going to be not just in the web outlets and the newspapers and, you know, the political journals that people like us read, it’s going to be leading the local newscasts, which are the press.
Polling tells us people pay a lot of attention to a lot of people say they get their news from their local there to get their political news from their local newscast and in terms of The facts that will be the focus of that coverage that are likely to come out the airing out in a much more public way of Some of the details that are in that evidence the new witness testimony that the news is only going to get more negative for the attorney general, unless of course the charges are simply dismissed next Tuesday.
There’s a motion to dismiss. That is a possibility. I, I, I don’t [00:33:00] personally don’t think it’s very likely. It doesn’t
Josh Blank: seem like that’s likely after. Yeah. Because my understanding was that, you know, the Senate met yesterday and could have behind closed doors, dismissed some of the charges and chose not to.
Jim Henson: and. One of the senators in that, in that meeting, to my understanding, told a reporter recently that they expected, you know, this trial could go on for three or four weeks, which is actually even longer. I heard four to six. Four to six, actually, I think that’s right, which is even longer, you know, it’s longer than we had been thinking and certainly longer than they’d been signaling.
And so if that’s the case, you know, really all we’re going to get. It is more public elaboration of the evidence and, and the surrounding details, you know, for example, and you know, if you’re the Paxton people, you wouldn’t like the story and I think you’d be justified in not liking it. Right. But you know, today’s AP story that’s in circulation that hit again, and it’s not the first time this.
Particular story has been written all those couple of new details about, you know, the attorney general’s apparent [00:34:00] love of perks and that he’s kind of, you know, an allegedly stingy and kind of cheap guy, you know, he takes the cake
Josh Blank: literally. Well, I thought, I mean, it was interesting to say that, you know, he’s, he’s done more trips out of state than the governor and lieutenant governor combined.
Jim Henson: You know, that kind of, again, if you, you know, if you’re, if you don’t want to respond to that, you can see why you, you know, you’re going to hate that story and think, Oh, come on, tell me you really had to write the story per se, but it can be a lot of stories like that. And it’s not out of necessarily at a bias, you know, the, there is going to be, there already is, and there will be more churning and competition among reporters to find new information, new angles.
You know, new frames for this story, and it’s just very unlikely that that’s going to be good for the attorney general, the suspended attorney general.
Josh Blank: And as we’re wrapping up here, I think, you know, in some ways, you know, there’s a way you can look at this point, another point made and see how, you know, one of, you know, Paxton’s advantages could turn into something of a disadvantage here, right, which is, you know, throughout this process, there have been very few [00:35:00] people who are.
Who are say, who are really defending the actions of Ken Pax, and they’re been attacking the process. And that speaks to this idea that it’s political, you know, as more and more details come out that involve, you know, witness testimony, leading evening newscasts, local newscasts saying, well, yeah. You know, he did that, or I’m not even, we’re not even talking about whether he did it, but we’re saying he shouldn’t be impeached for it.
It’s like, yeah, that’s a tough, I think that’s a heavy lift at some point. It is going to, if people do start to become more aware of, you know, some of the fact patterns that we’re talking about here, it’s sort of like, you know, because there’s one of the things like, well, yeah, I mean, who cares if the attorney general is using a burner phone and to go back
Jim Henson: to, you
Josh Blank: know, I mean, just, you know, and it’s kind of like, yeah, I mean, that’s just not a place that I would want to be from a crisis communication standpoint.
Jim Henson: Yeah. And to go back to one of our. Results. The only, you know, real fight against, you know, I mean, the real buttress, the foundation for that kind of argument that like, you know, he didn’t, this isn’t really, it’s just politics. Yeah. Is to tap into that. [00:36:00] Sentiment that the whole process is just about political competition.
And as you said, that gets really harder to do is the facts come out. Well, that’s
Josh Blank: right. And I think, you know, what, what makes that argument powerful in the moment is, is the absence of attention and people sort of unfamiliarity with, with the facts. And the thing is, you know, I, one thing that I know is gonna happen, we are going to get a.
full recitation of these facts. It’s a fallback
Jim Henson: attitude. And, you know, to, to end of, you know, maybe even a slight little twin, you know, bit of political science, you know, we’re already now is as the trial is getting closer, beginning to see elite cues from well, you know, reasonably well known Republicans that are.
Putting distance between themselves and Paxton, you know, last week it was Rick Perry, the last couple of days, John, Senator John Cornyn, one would very fairly say, well, yeah, 1997 called and they want the Republicans back or something, but. It’s hard [00:37:00] not to feel like that’s going to be the leading edge as people begin to feel like they have to commit as it becomes more salient, as they get asked more about it, as the facts come out and there’s more pressure to come down on one side or the other, that’s something
Josh Blank: we’ll be watching.
Well, there’s one thing that is clear here is, you know. Nobody’s going to save Ken Paxton if it’s going to hurt them.
Jim Henson: Right. And I think, you know, we’ve been saying that, you know, that the, the balance of people’s self interest and, you know, kind of the rubbers meet in the road right now and, or will as of Tuesday, for sure.
So with that, thank you for listening. You can find these new poll results at our website. They’ll be plastered all over it at texaspolitics. utexas. edu. And also if you want to get the jump on when and when and what we’re going to release next week, all of our blog posts on that website have a form that you can fill out and get on our mailing list if you’re not already on it.
It’s not a heavy mailing list. Mostly we Flag [00:38:00] poll relevant news or poll data relevant to news in Texas and signal when we’re releasing new data. So with that, thanks to Josh for being here. Thanks again to our excellent production team and the dev studio in the college of liberal arts at UT Austin, without whom we could not do this and thank you for listening and we’ll be back soon.
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