Articles

Why South Texas Hispanics Are Going GOP

February 23, 2023
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For decades, Texas Republicans have worked to improve their party’s standing in South Texas, a heavily Hispanic region where voters—despite being religious, patriotic, entrepreneurial and pro-family—routinely come out by big margins for Democrats. The GOP theory is that every additional Republican vote there is worth two because it takes away a reliably Democratic one. 

Though the GOP has been generally satisfied with its labors, the party has often remained deeply underwater in South Texas even when it has swept the state. Now that’s changing and in no small part thanks to Democratic policies, particularly on the border, economy and energy. 

South Texas’s rightward shift has national attention. After the 2020 election, the New York Times cited Zapata County as an example of how the region is getting redder. In this rural county along the Rio Grande, Mitt Romney lost by 43 points in 2012. Donald Trump lost by 33 in 2016. In 2020, he won by 5.

The trend continued into 2022, when Monica de la Cruz flipped the 15th Congressional District, becoming the first Republican in the seat since its creation in 1903. Hispanic Republicans also now hold three state House seats in South Texas, including the first GOP member from the Lower Rio Grande Valley, a Latina.

So what made South Texas start shifting so much? There have been plenty of theories, but now there’s a data-driven answer. Ragnar Research gave the question an in-depth look in a recent poll sponsored by the Associated Republicans of Texas, a conservative group involved in state legislative races; Project Red TX, which works to elect Republicans to local offices; and Texans for Responsible Government, a political-action committee started by Michael and Mary Porter, California transplants and retired investors.

The survey was conducted Dec. 18-20—long enough after the midterms to be largely uninfluenced by postelection coverage, but close enough that people remembered how they voted and felt. It was also solidly constructed. A thousand voters were surveyed in a region extending from the Rio Grande Valley to San Antonio (excluding the predominantly white sections of four counties), then further west to Laredo and the Big Bend. The sample was 58% Hispanic, 32% non-Hispanic white and 10% other.

The poll found that the two parties have roughly equally favorable reputations: 48% of South Texans view the GOP favorably and 44% unfavorably, compared with 47% and 46%, respectively, for the Democrats. That’s a big improvement for Republicans from years past.

The GOP advantage was possible only because 42% of Tejanos (Texas Hispanics) now view the party favorably versus 49% unfavorably. They still view the Democratic Party favorably overall but only by 57% to 36%—a much smaller advantage than it once held.

The survey found South Texans like Republicans because of their focus on border security, conservative values and competent governing. Those who dislike the party cite Donald Trump and their view that the party is uncaring and untruthful. By contrast, South Texans liked Democrats for supporting abortion rights and gun control, but disliked them for ignoring the border crisis, raising taxes, and failing on jobs and the economy.

For decades, Texas Republicans have worked to improve their party’s standing in South Texas, a heavily Hispanic region where voters—despite being religious, patriotic, entrepreneurial and pro-family—routinely come out by big margins for Democrats. The GOP theory is that every additional Republican vote there is worth two because it takes away a reliably Democratic one. 

Though the GOP has been generally satisfied with its labors, the party has often remained deeply underwater in South Texas even when it has swept the state. Now that’s changing and in no small part thanks to Democratic policies, particularly on the border, economy and energy. 

South Texas’s rightward shift has national attention. After the 2020 election, the New York Times cited Zapata County as an example of how the region is getting redder. In this rural county along the Rio Grande, Mitt Romney lost by 43 points in 2012. Donald Trump lost by 33 in 2016. In 2020, he won by 5.

Read More at the WSJ

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