NEW REPORT: Changing Demographics in Texas and the Politics of Immigration

by Latino Decisons on February 27, 2014

Immigration is Mobilizing Key Electorates in the State

Washington, DC – A new report by Latino Decisions about the growing Hispanic vote in Texas outlines opportunities and challenges for both the Democratic Party and the GOP. Although Hispanics represent a large swath of the electorate, weak turnout levels have undercut their power at the ballot box. At the same time, their numbers are growing and these voters are closely connected to the immigration debate. Both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have much to gain or lose in Texas depending on how they handle the issue of immigration reform.

On a February 26 press call/webinar polling experts, Latino civic engagement leaders and immigration advocates analyzed what the demographic trends look like in Texas and the role that immigration plays in shaping Latino voters’ political choices.

According to Sylvia Manzano, Principal at Latino Decisions, “The Texas Republican Party used to be the model for Hispanic outreach, but they are increasingly adopting the harsh language and policy positions that burned bridges with Hispanic voters in Arizona, California, and Colorado. In doing so, they give enthusiastic Democratic organizers and campaigns new political opportunities to re-build a long-term coalition in the state.”

She added, “Both parties know exactly what they need to do in order to mobilize the Texas Hispanic electorate. It is a matter of political will for both teams.”

The report highlights a multitude of ways in which the state’s surging Latino population in shaping politics in the state. Among some of key findings:

• The Hispanic population in Texas is just under 10 million, which is larger than the entire state population in forty-three states.

• Within the next six years, Hispanics will constitute a plurality of the Texas population (43% by 2020).

• Half of all Texans under the age of eighteen are Hispanic, while 64% of Texans over fifty are non-Hispanic whites.

• The majority of Texas Hispanics eligible to vote, 61%, did not cast a ballot in 2012. That is a twenty-two point turnout difference from their white counterparts in the state. Texas would be as competitive as Florida in statewide elections if this untapped electorate voted.

• 58% of Hispanic voters in Texas have friends or family members that are undocumented.

• When asked about the current immigration debate, 36% of Texas Hispanic voters indicated they would be more inclined to support future Republican candidates if the Party advanced comprehensive immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship (Figure 12). Texas Latinos rate above the national average on this point, and display more willingness to vote for GOP candidates compared to Latinos in several states.

“The trend lines are clear. What Republicans do on immigration in the next 10 months will shape national politics in the next decade. California and Florida have proved it. And nowhere is that forecast stronger today than in Texas,” said Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, Immigration and Civic Engagement Director at the National Council of La Raza, who’s working to increase Latino registration and participation rates in Texas.

Added Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “The GOP is at a crossroads, and the choices that House Republicans make now will impact their entire Party’s future for years to come. Texas Republicans are in a position to lead the GOP forward by showing leadership on immigration, but so far they’ve been sitting back and watching the Party commit political suicide.”

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