NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — A Californian suddenly transported to this South Texas town on a Sunday morning, just in time for the service at the Tree of Life evangelical church, might be hard-pressed to know she wasn’t in California anymore.
California has more megachurches than any other state, so the nature of the congregation wouldn’t provide the tip-off. Rows of pickup trucks in the large parking lot might be a tell, but the percentage of Texans who drive trucks is actually around the national average.
Even if the Californian began asking for political opinions, she’d still have trouble proving she was in Texas.
“We’re a diverse congregation,” said Kristen Kallus-Guerra, a congregant who serves as a greeter at the church doors. “Around the election, our pastor always reminds us to go out and vote — but he doesn’t tell us who to vote for.”
The most obvious evidence that the Tree of Life Church was in Texas would be the number of Dak Prescott jerseys. At least five congregants wore the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback’s No. 4 uniform to church on a recent November morning.
The diversity of Texas can surprise people used to viewing the state through the lens of its very conservative public policies.
The people of the two states do not differ nearly as much as their governance, according to a poll of roughly 1,600 California and Texas residents, conducted by YouGov for the Los Angeles Times.
California versus Texas is a rivalry without parallel. The nation’s two most populous states are political mirror images — the liberal bastion on the left coast, and the conservative Southern garrison on the Gulf.
California fervently protects abortion rights; Texas bans nearly all abortions. Texas upholds gun rights; California strictly regulates firearms. California plans to ban new gasoline-powered cars by 2035; Texas has banned companies that divest from fossil fuels from doing business with the state.
But a plurality of respondents in both California and Texas identified as moderates — 32% of Californians, and 31% of Texans — the poll found. Moderate can mean very different things to different people, but on specific policy questions, residents of the two states were often surprisingly close.
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