AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Hispanic and Anglo residents in Texas identify with the Republican Party far more than the national average, according to new polling data released Friday that calls into question how soon demographic changes in Texas could benefit Democrats seeking statewide office.
Gallup tracking polls show that 27 percent of Hispanics in Texas identify with the GOP, the highest percentage since 2008 and 6 percent higher than elsewhere in the country. Democrats nationally rely on Hispanic voters, but their level of conservatism in Texas could damper the party’s hope to soon end its 20-year losing streak for statewide office.
“Hispanics in Texas are more likely to identify as Republican than are Hispanics elsewhere, and the Republican Party in Texas has seen more growth in Hispanic support over the past five years than the Democratic Party,” Gallup’s Andrew Dugan said in his analysis of the results.
“While this has not changed the overall equation — Democrats still lead big among Texas Hispanics — it does suggest the GOP may be more competitive with this bloc than many assume,” he said.
Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, said the party’s leadership has long recognized the importance of the Hispanic community.
“It continues to be a top priority of the Republican Party that we continue our engagement with the Hispanic community,” he said. “As a result, today we have seven full time employees committed to engaging Hispanic voters in Texas.”
The percentage of Hispanics who lean or identify themselves as Democrats dropped from 53 percent in 2008 to 46 percent in 2013, which is 5 percent below Hispanics nationally.
Democrats insisted, though, that Republican policies hurt the Hispanic community.
“They have diluted the power of the Latino vote through discriminatory legislative and congressional maps, obstructed access to affordable health care, halted comprehensive immigration reform, continued to call for English-only laws, and sought repeals of birthright citizenship, the Voting Rights Act, and Pre-Kindergarten funding,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the Texas Democratic Party chairman. “Texas Democrats have long stood with the Latino community and when it comes to Election Day, I have no doubt Latinos will stand with us.”
Among the Anglo residents polled, 61 percent identified as Republicans. Nationally, Republicans make up 48 percent of the population.
The poll was based on 1,000 phone interviews conducted daily in all 50 states throughout 2013.
Democrats have stepped up efforts in Texas after 20 years of crushing defeats in statewide and presidential elections. Many note that Anglos, or non-Hispanic whites, make up 46 percent of the Texas population and that Hispanics are expected to become the majority by 2020, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections.
Texas Democrats joined Jeremy Bird, President Barrack Obama’s national field organizer, in creating a political action committee called Battleground Texas to take advantage of the demographic shift. Gilberto Hinojosa, the party chairman in Texas, has said that if Democrats can build a coalition of liberal Anglos, Hispanics and black voters, they could win elections.
But Gallup noted that voter registration and turnout continue to present the biggest challenges for Democrats.
Only 43 percent of Texas Hispanics said they were registered to vote, while 82 percent of Anglos and 77 percent of blacks said they were eligible to vote. That gives Republicans a distinct advantage: 64 percent of Texas residents who say they are eligible to vote are Anglo, 19 percent are Hispanic and 13 percent are black.
“Texas remains a Republican-leaning state because its white residents are becoming increasingly Republican and its large Hispanic population, though solidly Democratic, is less so than Hispanics nationally,” Dugan said.
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