Cal Jillson, Political Science, State conservatives reassessing Republican Party

San Antonio Express

Originally Posted: January 26, 2016

GEORGETOWN – In Williamson County, long perceived as the buckle on Texas’ conservative Republican belt, the lunchtime conversation on a recent day was about Donald Trump and why he should be president, instead of Ted Cruz, the well-liked home-state senator.
Cruz and Trump, the New York real estate magnate, are leading a pack of candidates battling for the GOP presidential nomination.

“(Trump’s) an outsider. He’s a sharp businessman. I think he could do the job,” said Butch Owens, 51, a small business owner and self-described “genetic conservative,” as he hiked across the courthouse square. “We need an outsider as president, someone who’s not part of politics. Ted’s close, but Trump’s closer.”

Similar sentiments are not hard to find in surrounding communities, from Taylor, an east-county farming center, to Pflugerville and Round Rock, urbanized bedroom communities near Austin, in a week when Trump garnered the highly-coveted endorsement of conservative GOP icon Sarah Palin.

And while plenty of Cruz campaign signs hint at his support in the county, political observers say Trump has helped trigger another trend: Conservative voters are reassessing just what it means to be a Republican in this presidential election year, a trend that could trickle down to voting in state and local races.

As Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson sees it, those distinctions will play a role in who wins Texas’ Republican primary, a contest where national polls have shown Trump leading Cruz, but where the latter holds an advantage as a Texan and a proven vote-getter with the conservatives and tea party activists who will anchor the GOP turnout. READ MORE

Cal Jillson, Political Science, Many Texans likely will vote before the March 1 primary

Fort Worth Star Telegram

Originally Posted: January 18, 2016

When the March 1 presidential primary elections finally arrive in Texas, hundreds of thousands of voters — maybe even half of the Texans who plan to turn out — may have already cast their ballots.

During the past three presidential elections alone, more than 2 million voters headed to the polls early in Texas, state records show.

“This is definitely the trend here,” said Frank Phillips, Tarrant County’s elections administrator. “Mid to high 60 percent of people who vote in Tarrant County vote before election day.

“It’s fantastic.”

Texas is one of 37 states, along with the District of Columbia, that lets voters cast ballots early, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Nearly 30 years ago, state lawmakers changed the early voting system that required Texans to provide a “valid excuse” to vote early.

They loosened up the rules to let voters cast early ballots just because they wanted to vote before election day.

“Some people enjoy and celebrate the act of voting,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “Other people … vote early. READ MORE

Matthew Wilson, Political Science, on GOP debate: Cruz-Trump tiff will command center stage

The following is an excerpt from SMU News. FULL ARTICLE HERE

Originally Posted: January 14, 2016

State of the Union challenge puts Trump, economy and foreign policy under spotlight at Republican Debate

SMU experts are available for interview on all things debatable in connection with Thursday’s prime time matchup between seven GOP hopefuls:





After months of Trump and Ted Cruz public civility, the gloves have finally come off in the feud between the two to win next month’s Iowa Caucus, says Wilson.

“Ted Cruz has to be rolling his eyes at this birther idiocy,” Wilson says. “Of all the things that could have been brought up as a line of attack, I don’t think he expected this to be Trump’s attack. But maybe he should have – because Trump was a big birther critic of Obama.”

As pivotal as the Cruz-Trump showdown will be for Iowa, a four-way fight between Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Jeb Bush for the New Hampshire primary could have an even greater impact on the shape of the race. A large margin of defeat there could potentially end several candidates’ ambitions.

“There’s a major battle there to see who will emerge as the center-right standard bearer as opposed to the far-right standard bearer, which would be Cruz,” Wilson says. “New Hampshire aggregates more center-right than far-right, but these four guys are dividing that vote, which creates an opening for Trump and, to a lesser extent, Cruz.”

Wilson is an SMU associate professor of Political Science

Can Discuss:

religion and politics
political psychology
voting behavior of religious voters
public opinion and politics

LISTEN: Cal Jillson, Political Science, Texas Remains a Burr Under the Supreme Court’s Saddle

High Plains Public Radio

Originally Posted: December 30, 2015

These days the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a lot from the Lone Star State. USA TODAY reports that nearly all the court’s top cases come from Texas, from abortion and affirmative action to voting rights and immigration.

Not much has changed since Gov. Greg Abbott’s days as attorney general. Back then Abbott bragged: “I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and then I go home.” But these days, Texas is more often on the defensive from the high court. Texas has potentially run afoul of federal law in cases involving aggrieved voters, students and abortion providers.

Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, says there is “a deeply held conviction among the political class in Texas that the federal government is overreaching and needs to be systematically checked.”

Other famous historical Texas cases include the 1973 abortion case Roe v. Wade and Van Orden v. Perry, which upheld the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capitol in 2005. READ MORE

SMU is closed December 24-January 1. Have a safe and happy holiday!


Five Dedman College professors receive 2015-16 Sam Taylor Fellowships

SMU News

Originally Posted: December 18, 2015

Eleven SMU faculty members have received 2015-16 Sam Taylor Fellowships from the Sam Taylor Fellowship Fund of the Division of Higher Education, United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Five of the recipients are Dedman College faculty.

The Fellowships, funded by income from a portion of Taylor’s estate, award up to $2,000 for full-time faculty members at United Methodist-related colleges and universities in Texas. Any full-time faculty member is eligible to apply for the Fellowships, which support research, “advancing the intellectual, social or religious life of Texas and the nation.”

Applications are evaluated on the significance of the project, clarity of the proposal, professional development of the applicant, value of the project to the community or nation and the project’s sensitivity to value questions confronting higher education and society.

The winning Dedman College professors for this academic year, and their projects:

• Karisa Cloward, Political Science, Dedman College, for field research on NGOs in Kenya

• Karen Lupo, Anthropology, Dedman College, to collect sediment cores in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a study of the central African rainforest

• Nicolas Sternsdorff-Cisterna, Anthropology, Dedman College, for travel to Japan for a study on food safety after Fukushima

• Hervé Tchumkam, World Languages and Literatures (French and Francophone Studies), Dedman College, for travel to research Cameroonian deaths and disappearances

• Roberto Vega, Physics, Dedman College, to support collaborative research on high-energy physics


SMU books fulfill your holiday gift giving list

Books published in 2015 by the SMU community, including faculty, staff, alumni, libraries and museum, can complete your holiday gift list.

Need to satisfy a history buff? This list has it covered in genres from art to film to science to the Southwest. Find selections for readers of poetry, as well as personal, political and travel memoir. There’s a cookbook for foodies. A photography collection showcases the American West. Arty crime capers are filled with mystery and intrigue to the end. There’s even a literary riff in the form of a card game based on a classic novel.

This collection has something for all reading preferences, from light to serious. Some selections are available at the SMU bookstore, but all are available via online booksellers unless otherwise noted. Authors are listed alphabetically. READ MORE

LISTEN: Cal Jillson, Political Science, shares expertise on top issues of 2016 Presidential race

KTRH NewsRadio

Originally Posted: December 17, 2015

Terrorism Changing Look Of 2016 Race

After the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino two weeks ago, and Paris in November, the 2016 Presidential race looks a lot different than it used to.

Forty percent of Americans told an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that national security and terror is their top priority. That’s up 19 points from April. SMU political scientist Cal Jillson told KTRH this represents a big shift.

“Normally it’s economic issues,” Jillson stated.

And who does that benefit?

“Republicans like to run on strength,” Jillson explained. On economic issues Democrats are generally advantaged. On foreign policy Republicans are.”

Jillson says it’s simple, that right now many of you are scared.

“What happened in Paris and San Bernardino brought those security issues back to the fore, but we don’t know if there will be a series of attacks that keeps it at the fore,” Jillson told KTRH News.

And if history is any guide, and attitudes shift, it can change the outcome of an election.

“George H.W. Bush had a very high rating because of what he did in Gulf War I. The economy tipped down and he lost the race,” Jillson said.

Other numbers from this poll; President Obama’s job rating is now down to 43 percent, his lowest in over a year. And 71 percent say shootings like we saw in San Bernardino are now a permanent part of American life. READ MORE


High-level’ national security postdoctoral fellows join SMU Tower Center

SMU News

Originally Posted: December 16, 2015

DALLAS (SMU) – Thomas Cavanna and David Benson have been selected to serve yearlong national security postdoctoral fellowships at SMU. Cavanna is in the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, and Benson joins SMU as part of a National Science Foundation-funded project on cyber-security.

“Both are pursuing important interdisciplinary scholarship at a very high level,” says Joshua Rovner, Tower Center acting director. “They’ve sought out discussions and collaborative research on critically important policy issues, and they are pushing the boundaries of what we know about international relations and national security policy.”

Cavanna’s work focuses on U.S. foreign policy, strategy and nuclear studies, particularly in Asia and the Middle East. He is the author of Hubris, Self-Interest and America’s Failed War in Afghanistan: the Self-Sustaining Overreach (Lexington Books, 2015). His next book, expected in spring 2016 to focus on U.S. foreign policy toward India and Pakistan in the 1970s, is based on his dissertation, which won the 2013 Prix Jean-Baptiste Duroselle for best dissertation in history of international relations. Another forthcoming book will address U.S. grand strategy and the rise of China from the Cold War to the Obama administration. READ MORE

Save the Date: 2016 Career Fair, Feb. 18 from 4-7 p.m.