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Polling Center: In Constitutional Election, Opposition Isn't Overflowing

Political chatter about a grassroots uprising against the water funding measure on the November ballot appears to be overblown. Polling indicates a fair amount of Tea Party support for that constitutional amendment.

A view downstream from the headwaters of the San Marcos River. Water from the Edwards Aquifer flows from San Marcos Springs …

Some opponents of Proposition 6, the ballot measure designed to bankroll the State Water Infrastructure Fund for Texas, have suggested that there is a wellspring of opposition to be mobilized that will join activists of the left and right in opposition to that proposed constitutional amendment. The University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, however, provides no evidence of such a left-right coalition of skeptical environmentalists and tight-fisted Tea Partiers — or, at least, no evidence of a consequential one.

As we wrote shortly after the poll’s release last week, Prop 6’s prospects of passage remain overwhelmingly positive; the poll found support outpacing opposition 52 percent to 19 percent (with support increasing as we restricted the definition of the likely electorate commensurate with the expected low turnout of a constitutional amendment election).

There is very little opposition to the measure on the left end of the ideological spectrum. While some environmental groups are opposed, our poll found very little opposition to the measure among self-identified liberals: Only 6 percent of “extremely liberal” respondents opposed it, while 51 percent approved. Judging from news reports, there do seem to be liberal activists opposed to the measure, but their following among the grassroots appears negligible.

There also have been some rumblings — mainly, one suspects, expressions of supporters’ jitters — that Tea Party members energized by the politics of the federal government shutdown and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s role in it will now show up in large numbers to vote against Prop 6. The vocal opposition of former gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina, currently in the Republican primary race for comptroller, has amplified those sentiments.

The Tea Party, however, seems unlikely to swamp the polls with “no” voters (let alone to anchor a left-right "anti-" coalition). Turning the tide of support evident in the polling results would probably require not just significant turnout, but also a change of heart among Tea Party voters, only 28 percent of whom expressed opposition in our poll.

Tea Party voters — already a group of Texans we think of as interested in politics and in turning out to vote — might be sufficiently energized by recent events to turn out in larger numbers for the constitutional election than they might have without the inspiration of the shutdown. But all the political churn notwithstanding, it seems unlikely that they will change their minds in sufficient numbers to turn the tide on Prop 6 in the remaining days of this statewide election. 

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