Politics Counts: Why Texas Could Flip Quickly From Red to Blue

By Dante Chinni

Dante Chinni writes Politics Counts every Friday. Mr. Chinni is the director of the American Communities Project at American University, which examines different types of communities across the U.S.

For students of politics and demographics, Texas has the look of a state in transition.

The Lone Star State is a Republican Party stronghold, and also is home to a growing number of Hispanics, who tend to vote Democratic, as 2012 showed. Despite Texas’ large Hispanic population, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney swept the state in 2012, winning by 16 percentage points.

So why do analysts and some politicians, including Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who grew up in Texas, say the state could actually flip Democratic soon?

Shifts in demographics aren’t just about race or ethnicity. Age also plays a role. And when you look at how Texas’ changing ethnic landscape combines with its age breakdown, you’ll see signs that if Texas flips, it could go from red to purple to blue relatively quickly.

Currently, about 38% of Texas’ population is Hispanic. That’s more than double the national average of 17% and about the same as California, which is already deep blue on the electoral map. With those numbers in mind, why isn’t Texas already blue?

The difference is that Texas’ non-Hispanic white voters are much more Republican than the nation at large. Overall, 48% of non-Hispanic whites identify as Republicans, according to Gallup, but in Texas, 61% of non-Hispanic whites identify as Republicans.

Hispanics are slightly more likely to identify as Republicans in Texas than they are elsewhere as well.

Party Identification by Ethnicity in the U.S. and in Texas




U.S. Non-Hispanic Whites




Texas Non-Hispanic Whites




U.S. Hispanics




Texas Hispanics




So for Texas to flip from red to blue, the Hispanic portion of the vote would have to grow suddenly. The age breakdown in the state suggests that kind of growth is very possible in the next few years.

Non-Hispanic whites hold the population advantage in Texas among people 40-or-older. About 42% of 40-year-old Texans are non-Hispanic whites – 39.3% of them are Hispanic. The gap is bigger with older voters. At age 50, non-Hispanic whites in Texas make up about 52% of the state’s population, while Hispanics make up only about 31%.

But below age 40, Hispanics make up more of the state’s population and the Hispanic advantage grows with younger Texans. About 47% of the 13-year-olds in Texas are Hispanic and only about 35% are non-Hispanic whites. Among five-year-old Texans, the Hispanic advantage swells to nearly 20 percentage points – about 50% of the population is Hispanic versus about 32% that is non-Hispanic and white.

There are currently 1.1 million more Hispanics in Texas under the age of 18 than there are non-Hispanic whites.

Texas Under-18 Populations by Ethnicity

Non-Hispanic Whites


Under 5 years



5 to 9 years



10 to 14 years



15 to 17 years






In other words, a lot of the 38% of the population that is Hispanic in Texas can’t vote yet, and that’s due to change in the coming years. The future looks like it belongs to Hispanics in the state and the shift to the future could come abruptly.

There are, as always, variables.

First, people move. This is a snapshot, and many of those young Hispanic families could move out of Texas or more non-Hispanic whites could move in. It would, however, take a lot of movement to reverse the numbers in the chart above.

Second, there is the question of illegal immigration and who has the right to vote. It’s impossible to know for certain how many of these younger Hispanic Texans are in the U.S. illegally, but national figures show that the majority of illegal immigrants are older, with 74% over age 25. When you look at the big population differences among Texas’ youth, it’s hard to imagine illegal immigration would alter the numbers much.

Finally, a strong get-out-the-vote campaign could hasten a flip.

Since Texas is not generally an electoral battleground, there usually isn’t a lot of money spent to get out the vote. Those efforts often favor Democratic voting segments, like Hispanics, and could have a big impact in the state.

Texas lags national averages in Hispanic turnout. It’s the kind of state where a sudden increase in voter outreach could change results in short order.

None of that means Texas is certain to flip this election or next, but the Democratic pressures on the state are real and growing quickly

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