As the election polls rolled in on Tuesday, many Texas progressives were left in disbelief. Even those who had always predicted a loss hadn’t predicted to lose by such a wide margin. The next step, after walking through those twelve stages of election grief, will no doubt be sorting through data and analyzing it every which way in order to answer the question: what happened?
But, instead of looking at what went wrong today, let’s take a moment to talk about some of the things that went right – and how we can improve upon those things in the future. With the help of polling from The Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin and Latino Decisions, we can start to do just that.
Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte won Texans under 45. While voters 45 and up voted overwhelmingly for Abbott, with an even wider spread than the race itself, voters under 45 tell a different story. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, as even young Republicans are not immune to the cultural shifts around hot button topics like gay marriage, but the difference is stark. Were the race conducted only among voters under 45, Texas would appear to be a swing state.
While young voters gave Davis a one or two percent margin, other groups favored her heavily in the statewide race. Black voters in Texas almost unanimously selected Wendy Davis as their next governor. Ninety-two percent of Black Texans who voted on Tuesday voted for Davis. The trend still holds true with the introduction of gender. With 90% of Black men and 94% of Black women voting for Davis for governor. Black Texans, who make up approximately 11.4% of the state’s population, accounted for 12% of voters this year, according to the Austin American Statesman.
Latin@s also voted for Davis on Tuesday. Latino Decisions’ Election Eve poll, found that 68% of Latin@s in Texas supported Davis, the Statesman reported 57% of Latin@s voted for her on Election Day, while the Texas Politics Project’s exit polls showed a slightly lower percentage at 55%. Whichever statistic you choose, they all tell the same story: despite continual hand-wringing over whether Davis’ filibuster fame would keep Latin@s from supporting her, they showed up for Democratic candidates statewide.
As the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s most recent poll on attitudes about abortion among Texas Latin@s could have told the naysayers: attitudes about abortion about Latin@ likely voters are far more nuanced than the media would lead us to believe. Texas Latinas preferred Davis by a wide margin, with 61% voting for the Democratic candidate. Here, however, gender does matter: 50% of Latinos voted for Greg Abbott. Latin@s also didn’t turn out at nearly the rate of their Black counterparts: despite making up almost 40% of the population, they represented less than 20% of voters in this election.
Among young people, Black, and Latina Texans, Wendy Davis was the overwhelming choice for Governor in 2014. While white voters still outperformed every other group, making up 65% of voters, and voting overwhelmingly for Greg Abbott, if voter turnout reflected the diversity of Texas, Republicans would not win.
This is nothing new to those organizing around progressive ideas in Texas. We constantly point to shifting demographics as a key factor in future elections – but perhaps never before has the importance of this message been so clear. Despite losing by a surprisingly large margin, Davis and the Democratic ticket were the clear choice among those who represent Texas’ future. And I think it is safe to say that when it comes to the long-term work of turning Texas blue, we are just getting started.