Why Texas is turning into a swing state

Why Texas is turning into a swing state
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In this debate series, GRI asked what will mostly affect election day and the upcoming presidency. Lauren Maffeo explains why Texas will be an actual “swing state” through election day.

Once considered a solidly red state, early poll results from Texas show Trump competing with Clinton. Here is why Texas is considered a “swing state” that could start to turn blue for the first time in four decades.

Texas is not often described as a “battleground state.” Unlike New Hampshire in New England, Florida in the South, and Ohio in the Midwest—“swing states” in which no candidate or party has overwhelming support from those state’s electoral colleges—Texas has consistently voted Republican. That makes early voting results from the Lone Star State so surprising.

By the end of Monday, October 24, a new record for first-day early voting was set when 19,000 Texans cast their ballots in El Paso County. The following day set a separate record for second-day early voting when 16,000 Texans showed up to vote. These results followed RealClearPolitics’ October 23 poll aggregator, which showed that Donald Trump was five points ahead of Hillary Clinton. Despite Trump’s traditional Republican lead, it’s noteworthy that this is a contest at all.

The Result? Real Clear Politics’ poll aggregator showed on October 23 that Donald Trump was five points ahead of Hillary Clinton.

Historical voting trends in Texas

A Democrat has not won Texas in a presidential election since Jimmy Carter in 1976. And Republicans easily took Texas in the last four U.S. presidential elections; each candidate won by double-digit points. So, this year’s early voting trends leave many analysts viewing Texas as a swing state.

Another clue lies in voter demographics. As of Wednesday, October 26, 54 percent of early voters in El Paso have been women. If trends from the previous nine presidential elections continue, female voters will consistently vote for the Democratic candidate—Clinton, in this instance—at higher rates than men. Furthermore, Trump’s alienation of Hispanic voters leaves some—including Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas—convinced that this election will bring record numbers of Hispanic voters to the polls.

Thus far, Rep. Anchia’s prediction has proven to be correct. As of November 3, early voter turnout in Texas had soared almost 40 percent higher than in 2012. This is largely due to high early voter turnout amongst Democrats and Hispanics, as well as strong spikes in Travis County and El Paso County.

It remains to be seen whether those voters will turn out on or before November 8. If polls have taught us anything this year, it is the lesson that they can be woefully wrong

The changing face of Texas

Regardless of which political party takes Texas this year, the fact remains that this state will look different in decades to come. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that non-Hispanic white Americans will be the minority in 2045. Those changes are already obvious in Texas.

Asian Americans, currently the state’s fastest-growing minority, are projected to comprise more than eight percent of Texans by 2040. 69 percent of Texans in Harris County (which includes Houston) are minorities; most of them identify as Democrats. Within the last two years, Hispanics have increased from 25 percent to 29 percent of Texas’ registered voters.

What does this mean for future voting patterns? Texas is the second most populous state in the U.S. It is also projected to increase its number of electoral votes to 40 or 41 after the 2020 census (it currently has 38). If the Republican party’s only large anchor state fails to capture these changing demographics, they risk losing to Democrats in future elections.

The fact remains that a Democratic victory in Texas is unlikely this year. There is no guarantee that voters in these changing demographics will turn out in the numbers needed to shift political power to the left—but if October’s early voting is any indication, the Democrats will not go down without a fight. Even if Texas Republicans win the 2016 battle, data suggests that they might lose the ethnographic war—and in turn, future electoral cycles.

GRI Debates provide critical insight into the world’s most challenging political risk topics. Through well-balanced opinion based articles, GRI Debates offer a forum for deeper discussion into how major political decisions and security challenges affect markets, investment, and economic growth across the globe.

About Author

Lauren Maffeo

Lauren Maffeo has reported on and worked within the global tech sector. In 2012, Lauren earned commission from the government of Taiwan to report on the island's media market -- the largest, freest market on the Asian continent. Lauren earned her MSc from The London School of Economics and her BA from The Catholic University of America, where she was a CUA Oxford Honors Scholar at St. Catherine's College, Oxford.