Texas and Hispanic Voting Patterns

It never ceases to amaze me how political folks make dead certain pronouncements about the future. For example, Paul Burka of Texas Monthly has pronounced the demise of the Texas Republican Party, and cites Democratic wonks who suggest they will have a “permanent” majority after 2017-2019. The basis for these bold claims: racial demographics which have shown for years that Hispanics will eventually become the majority racial demographic in Texas.

However, everyone seems to assume that 1) Hispanics vote as a bloc, which is incorrect, and 2) that as they assume majority status and the benefits of that status, that they will continue to vote as a racial bloc.

1) Hispanics do not vote as a bloc in Texas, and for decades now, Republicans have received 30-40 percent of the Hispanic vote, even with some rather loud voices on the immigration issue. As this Pew Hispanic Center analysis shows [pdf], Rick Perry received 38 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2010 and 31 percent in 2006. And according to this report [pdf], Bush 43 received 31 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000 and 43 percent in 2004. When Burka and others talk about the demise of Texas Republican Party as a melting away based on racial demographics, you would expect to see a lower percentage of Hispanics voting for Republicans (e.g. something similar to the voting patterns you see in the African-American community, which is the result of many issues, including poverty).

2) Race, particularly in relation to the issue of immigration, is cited as the reason for the Texas Republican Party’s demise, but by focusing on race, we ignore an important demographic factor which is more important in determining future voting patterns, and also contributed to the rise of the Republican Party in Texas. That factor is income. The rise of the Republican Party coincided with the rise of wealth and income growth in Texas. And nationally, studies have shown that income in a reliable determinate in voting behaviour (Sources: here, here and here). I don’t think we can assume Hispanics will not experience income growth as they become the majority in Texas (and across the Southwest), and thus, I think we have to consider that income growth will have a significant impact on Hispanic voting patterns, just as it had a significant impact on the voting patterns of whites in the South.

Anyone who studies politics or is involved in politics should probably avoid pronouncements suggesting the permanence of any regime or the death of another, because if there is one thing sure in politics it’s that nothing is permanent and all things are cyclical. In short, it’s incredibly likely that Texas Republicans will lose the majority in the Texas Legislature and lose statewide executive offices, but that decline isn’t likely to be permanent.