Republicans Must Make Significant Strides with Minorites to Keep Texas Red Long-Term
Beto O’Rourke’s run for U.S. Senate came 2.6 percentage points short of unseating Senator Ted Cruz last November. But while the close loss was disappointing to his supporters, the margin validated more than ever the narrative that Texas may soon be a purple, or even blue, state. In more sobering news for Democrats, Republican Governor Greg Abbott won his race by a hearty 13.3 points, proving, along with a Republican sweep of other statewide offices, that Texas still remains a Republican stronghold.
The narrative surrounding Texas’s purple/blue potential stems largely around its changing demographics. The voting age population for Hispanics in Texas was projected at 7.27 million people for 2016 by the Texas Demographic Center; by 2048, that figure will be about double. Looking at gross population statistics (not voting age population) Hispanics will hold a plurality of the state population by 2022 (Texas Demographic Center). When you take into account that Hispanics tend to vote for Democrats more than Republicans- 61% of Hispanics voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 (CNN)- it’s not difficult to see why this narrative persists.
But just how hopeful should Democrats be? And if Texas does shift purple/blue, what does the basic structure of that timeline look like? For the answers to that question, I turned to the data from the 2016 Presidential election and population projections from the Texas Demographic Center. I used 2016 as a baseline for turnout by ethnicity and party preference by ethnicity. The ethnicities were broken down to White, Hispanic, Black, and Asian. The 2016 Presidential election was chosen because it has the advantage of relative recency and also represents a sort of happy medium between the high-water mark for Democrats in statewide elections in 2018 (O’Rourke v Cruz) and the 2018 low-water mark for Democrats in statewide elections(Valdez v Abbot).
First, the baseline results were found. The baseline results assumed no changes in voter turnout by ethnicity and no changes in voter preference by ethnicity. The baseline results are promising for Democrats (Table 1/Figure 1). The results show a neck and neck Republican versus Democrat baseline for 2024 and a virtual tie in 2028, with a margin of less than half a point separating the Democrat and Republican projection. In the baseline projection, Democrats would have the advantage by 2032.
Republicans, however, may very well gain more of the minority vote going forward. To estimate what much more Republican-favorable projections would look like, a Republican gain of 1 percentage point every 4 years, and a corresponding Democrat loss of 1 percentage point, was assumed for each minority ethnicity through the 2048 election, or +8 R/-8 D for each minority over the entire span of 2016–2048 (Table 2/ Figure 2). This projection, besides having positive assumptions about Republican potential with minorities, also favors Republicans in assuming no increase in turnout for minorities and assuming no drop in white support or turnout.
The results are much better for Republicans with these generous assumptions, but even with the more Republican-favorable assumptions, a Democrat advantage is only stalled by about two decades. Although, if the projection were continued past 2048, elections would trend toward Republicans as an R versus D split on Hispanic voters would be approached.
These results, while subject to a plethora of different variables that are difficult to predict, leave at least one important conclusion: Republicans will have to make huge strides with minorities if they wish to retain their statewide election advantage in Texas.
Cable News Network. Exit Polls: Texas President
Texas Demographics Center. 2018 Texas Population Projections Data Tool.
Texas Secretary of State. Race Summary Report: 2018 General Election, 11/6/2018.