Press Release: Report: The Threads of Texas A Story of Enduring Identity in a Rapidly Changing State


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Report: The Threads of Texas
A Story of Enduring Identity in a Rapidly Changing State
Extensive Research Study on Texan Identity Shows Demographics are not Destiny

April 26, 2021—AUSTIN, TX—Texans are fed up with political division, with more than eight in ten saying they are exhausted by the conflict in politics. A key driver of this sense of exhaustion is that Texans see division in a different way: 81 percent say Texans have more in common than what divides them. A new groundbreaking study, The Threads of Texas, explains the forces which are pulling Texans apart and the shared identity and values that can bring Texans together. This new report challenges long-standing narratives of political and geographic division within the state of Texas by providing new data on the many shared beliefs among Texans.

The report was produced by More In Common, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses a research-based approach to work on initiatives that address the underlying drivers of social fracturing and polarization in order to build more resilient societies. Data collection was done in partnership with YouGov and included a survey of 4,000 adults living in Texas conducted from July to August of 2020 in both English and Spanish. The project includes an additional statewide survey of Texas adults fielded in March 2021 along with 12 focus groups held with Texans from across the state.

“In survey responses and focus groups, we heard from Texans of all backgrounds how frustrated they are by the division they see in politics,” said Christiana Lang Senior Associate for More in Common. “And at the same time, most Texans were not consumed by politics. The stories most Texans shared were ones about family, community, and a deep pride in being Texan.”  

The study suggests that shared ideals between Texans cut across political and geographical divides and that an exclusive focus on those factors obscures the heterogeneity of Texan populations. In fact, the findings underscore that a singular focus on politics and geography can mislead Texans into seeing themselves as divided into monolithic blocs, such as urban versus rural, liberals versus conservatives, or newcomers versus those who were born in the state. This is far from the complete political picture.

For example, 91 percent of Texans agree that being truly Texan means helping your neighbors, and 89 percent of Texans agreed that “the recent weather and power crisis has reminded us that no matter our political beliefs, as Texans we have to rely on each other and work together”.

While these fault lines do exist, the report uncovers a more nuanced reality of the diversity of views that Texans hold—views that are rooted less in their geography and political attachments than is often assumed.

"The work of building thriving communities for all Texans requires collaboration across lines of difference. The Threads of Texas report makes a unique contribution to such efforts by providing a new framework for acting on values and beliefs which Texans share. We’re looking forward to harnessing all that we have in common and are ready to join with others to create a brighter future together - one in which equity, connectedness, and belonging for all Texans is the reality, and not just a future dream."  -- Sarah Cotton Nelson, Chief Philanthropy Officer, Communities Foundation of Texas

The survey posed questions on Texan identity, the current and future state of Texas, Texans’ views of their state, and topical issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, racial justice movement, and the 2020 Presidential election. A recently completed follow up survey includes nuanced data on Texans’ views of their state in the aftermath of February’s severe winter storm.

In Texas, Demographics Are Not Destiny

In the wake of the 2020 presidential election, considerable national attention focused on voting trends in Texas. Voting patterns among young Texans buck widely-held assumptions that voting patterns can largely be explained by demographic or geographic factors. One of the seven segments generated in the survey, titled Rising Mavericks, is a segment defined by young Texans. This group is neither liberal nor conservative, they share a deep desire to see issues of racial inequality addressed, an intense Texan pride, and a strong orientation towards individualism and entrepreneurialism.

In its approach to research and analysis, More In Common was able to look beyond demographics and geography to create seven distinct segments which reimagine the traditional political concepts of Texas. The segments were generated by using an iterative agglomerative hierarchical cluster analysis. They are:

●      Lone Star Progressives - Strongly liberal and highly-engaged, Lone Star Progressives are critical of Texas and envision a more progressive future for the state.

●      Civic Pragmatists - Open-minded and tolerant, Civic Pragmatists seek to find areas of common ground with other Texans.

●      Rising Mavericks - Youthful and strong-willed, Rising Mavericks have multi-faceted views and an idealistic outlook on the future of the state.

●      Apolitical Providers -  Occupied and detached from politics, Apolitical Providers have too much on their plates to engage meaningfully with issues they care about.

●      Die-hard Texans- Intensely proud and Texan-centered, Die-hard Texans have a Texas vs the world mindset and are protective about Texas culture.

●      Reverent Texans - Faith-oriented and patriotic, Reverent Texans are established Texans who feel a strong sense of optimism, belonging, and commitment to the state.

●      Heritage Defenders - Nostalgic and conservative, Heritage Defenders feel embattled as they seek to preserve what they perceive as an authentic and pure Texas.

The question that this report poses is whether Texans will continue to be divided along familiar fault lines, or build upon the considerable amount of common ground that they share.

We believe that this powerful new lens will help Texans come together and work towards shared goals and aspirations for the state,” said Noelle Malvar, Ph.D and Senior Researcher at More in Common. “It’s not about papering over differences or ignoring significant issues, but rather finding ways to seize opportunities and confront challenges while always seeing each other first and foremost as a fellow Texan. The data in this report helps illuminate this path forward for Texans.”

About More in Common

More in Common US is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization that seeks to strengthen democratic culture by bringing Americans together around shared values, beliefs, and identities. More in Common conducts quantitative and qualitative research to better understand the forces driving Americans apart and provides solution-oriented information that further these goals. In addition, More in Common works with partner organizations to maximize impact by sharing research learnings and organizing events that constellate around strengthening democratic culture.

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Includes: Notable Data Points, Methodology, Study Participant Quotes