WASHINGTON -- A conspiracy theory that the U.S. military is plotting to invade Texas and impose martial law has gained some traction among Republicans. A poll by Public Policy Polling released on Wednesday found that 32 percent of GOP primary voters nationwide believe that the federal government is in fact trying to take over Texas.
The conspiracy centers on an exercise the Department of Defense is planning to conduct, known as Jade Helm 15, across several Southwestern states including Texas. It’s not uncommon for the Pentagon to conduct practice missions with troops, but this one is large-scale and meant to simulate entering a hostile country.
Pointing to briefing documents the military had provided the public to explain the exercise, a group of conspiracy theorists began arguing that it wasn’t an exercise at all, but an excuse for the military to deploy troops in order to take over Texas, seize guns, arrest political opponents and impose martial law. The conspiracy theories gained more traction after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to send the Texas State Guard to monitor the U.S. military’s movements. And Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is running for president, was criticized for further stoking the fire after he asked the Pentagon to clarify their intentions and said the concern was justified because no one trusts the administration.
But it didn’t appear to give Cruz a boost among those who believe the conspiracy theory. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was leading among the Texas-takeover believers, winning 23 percent of that constituency compared with Cruz’s 18 percent.
Forty percent of those Republicans polled by PPP, a liberal-leaning national polling firm, said they don’t believe Texas is under risk of being taken over by the feds. But there is still a substantial chunk of voters -- 32 percent -- who think a secret plot may be underway to take over the nation’s second-largest state.
In terms of conspiracy theories, 32 percent is a sizable numbers. PPP has polled on conspiracy theories before and found 28 percent of American voters believe there is a secretive group of powerful elites trying to rule the world through authoritative power, 21 percent believe a UFO crashed at Roswell, New Mexico, and 15 percent believe the government or media are adding mind control signals to radio and television broadcasts (known as the tin-foil hat crowd).