In Texas, the pool of potential voters is dramatically different now than it was just a decade ago.
A study by New American Economy, a research fund that analyzes immigration trends, took a national look at Census data between 2010 and 2018 and found that over the last eight years, the Lone Star State has seen an increase of 500,000 more foreign-born voters. The growth of these voters might seem miniscule in a state with almost 30 million residents, but when key races in a battleground state are decided by about a percentage point or less, these voters could have the potential to swing races.
As part of our statewide series "Unlocking the Latino Vote," KERA’s Alejandra Martinez dug into the numbers with Jeremy Robbins, the group’s executive director.
Here’s an excerpt of that conversation:
How different is the electorate since 2010? What stands out here?
There have been two dramatic sets of changes in the U.S. electorate since 2010. One has to do with the fact that the electorate is becoming increasingly diverse, not just nationally, but specifically in almost every single state across the country. The second change, which is equally important, is that it's becoming increasingly educated. And especially for white voters, as white voters with a college degree, are voting in a very distinct way from white voters without a college degree.
That's becoming a very important trend in the electorate, where if you think about the last presidential race, where you had several states that were decided by less than 1% of the vote, those what seemingly small changes can have a dramatic change in outcome.
We've known that the Latino population is growing. How robust has that growth been since 2010?
It's been pretty dramatic. Hispanics now make up the largest minority group in the U.S. electorate, there are 29.7 million eligible voters. And when you think about their share of the entire vote, that's increased almost three percentage points since 2010. So now, about 12.7% of the electorate is made up of Hispanic voters, it's about 1 every 8 voters.
You also chart potential voters who were born in another country, more than 21 million of them, up nearly 5 million in a decade. That's pretty stunning.
Yeah, that's right, with about a million green card holders naturalizing and becoming citizens every year, the foreign-born share the electorate has been increasing dramatically. Almost 1 in 11 voters was born outside this country. They make up 21.7 million people in our electorate. So subtle shifts can have a dramatic change.
Especially when you talk about Hispanic or foreign-born voters, immigration has been a central issue for the last four years. And now if you look at Hispanic voters in particular, they tend to vote on the economy and jobs. Immigration is not the defining issue for those voters, but it is a gateway issue. And it is an issue that is important to the voting bloc. And so as you see Hispanic voters, or separately foreign-born voters who may or may not be Hispanic, becoming an increasing share of the voting bloc issues like immigration can have a bigger impact.
Do you have a sense of how that growing core of immigrants are changing Texas?
Elections in Texas had been incredibly close over the last several years. In 2018, Ted Cruz won his re-election to the U.S. Senate by about 200,000 votes. So small changes in the electorate can have huge impact on the on the statewide races.
Let's look at foreign-born voters: Just over the last eight years, there are 500,000 more foreign-born voters in Texas than there were in 2010, by 2018. So these changes can dramatically impact what's going to happen in these big Texas races.
How do you think this change electorate will affect the results on Nov. 3?
The prediction game of what's going to happen in the election is not one that has been terribly successful over the last few years. So I hesitate from guessing which candidate people will vote for. But I will say this: If you look at 2016, not a huge number of the races were decided by about a percentage point or less, right? Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania and so you look at how close the electorate is, these changes matter. And the ability of campaigns to reach discrete voting groups and diverse voting groups is going to be the path to success.
Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the economic impact of COVID-19 on marginalized communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @_martinez_ale.
KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.