Ideology and Partisanship in the 87th (2021) Regular Session of the Texas Legislature
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This report utilizes roll call vote data to improve our understanding of the ideological and partisan dynamics of the Texas Legislature’s 87th regular session.
The first section examines the location of the members of the Texas Senate and of the Texas House on the liberal-conservative dimension along which legislative politics takes place in Austin. In both chambers, every Republican is more conservative than every Democrat and every Democrat is more liberal than every Republican. There does, however, exist substantial ideological diversity within the respective Democratic and Republican delegations in each chamber.
The second section explores the extent to which each senator and each representative was on the winning side of the non-lopsided final passage votes (FPVs) on which they voted. In the Senate, the one-third of senators with the highest FPV Win Rates are all Republicans, while the one-third of senators with the lowest FPV Win Rates are all Democrats. In sharp contrast, in the House, the one-third of representatives with the highest FPV Win Rates are split at a three-to-two ratio among Democrats (62%) and Republicans (38%), while the one-third of representatives with the lowest FPV Win Rates are all Republicans.
The third section uses the data from the first two sections to examine the relationship between ideology, partisanship, and FPV Win Rates in the Texas Senate and House. The data suggest that a Republican agenda dominated the Texas Senate during the 2021 regular session, with the Republican senators at the ideological center of the GOP Senate Caucus having a FPV Win Rate that was 31% greater than that of the Democrat at the ideological center of the Democratic Senate Caucus.
The data reveal a Texas House where a Republican agenda did not dominate to the same degree as in the Senate, despite Republicans holding a majority similar in size to that in the Senate and despite the Speaker of the House, like the Lieutenant Governor who leads the Senate, being a Republican. The median Democrat on the Lib-Con dimension in the House had a FPV Win Rate that was 11% higher than that of the median Republican on the LibCon dimension.
The final section examines the partisanship of the Texas Senate and House via an analysis of partisan roll rates—the proportion of FPVs where a majority of the respective caucuses’ members were on the losing side. The data reveal one similarity and two differences between the Senate and House. The similarity is that a large majority of the FPVs had a bipartisan consensus (73% in the Senate and 69% in the House), with neither party being rolled. The first difference is that while Senate Republicans were rolled on only 0.3% of the FPVs, House Republicans were rolled on 29.4% of FPVs, almost 100 times more. The second is that Senate Democrats were rolled on 26.4% of FPVs, more than twice the rate for House Democrats (10.4%).