Texas might be going purple, but probably not as quickly as people think.
That's the takeaway from some interesting new findings from Gallup.
For a while now, smart political observers have talked about the prospect of the Lone Star State becoming competitive (or even blue) at the presidential level, giving Democrats a potentially game-changing 38 electoral votes that would make it very difficult for Republicans to win elections for the foreseeable future. Some have even suggested Texas could be in play in 2016 or 2020.
One of the problems with the whole Texas-turning-purple/blue idea, though, is that there isn't a whole lot of great data to back it up. In large part, it's a theoretical idea based on the fact that the state's population is growing and changing fast -- i.e. becoming much more Hispanic. (While non-Hispanic whites were 52.4 percent of the population in 2000, they were just 45.3 percent in 2010.)
But the new Gallup findings should give us all pause when it comes to predicting just how quickly we'll see a Purple Texas. For a few reasons:
1) Texas Latinos ≠ Latinos elsewhere
The Fix will often point out that Cuban-American voters in Florida, for example, are much more Republican than Latinos out west.
Latinos in Texas, it turns out, are also more Republican than elsewhere. While Latinos in all other states favor Democrats 51-21, in Texas it's a significantly closer split: 46-27.
And what's more, Latinos in Texas are also trending more toward the GOP and away from Democrats, in contrast to the rest of the country . Here's how that looks:
2) White Texans are also also growing more Republican
Even if there are more Democratic voters because of Latino population growth, Republicans have helped offset that by bringing more white voters on-board.
Sixty-one percent of non-Hispanic white voters in Texas now claim the GOP as home, compared to 48 percent in the rest of the country.
And given that non-Hispanic white voters are still 64 percent of registered voters and Hispanics are just 19 percent, that means Republicans will continue to have a huge leg up with the state's biggest voting bloc for years to come.
None of this is to say that the GOP doesn't have long-term problems in Texas. Party-registration numbers don't tell the whole story (unfortunately there are no 2012 exit polls from Texas to compare this data to). In addition, the exploding Latino population will continue to give Democrats hope to make this state competitive; as long as Latinos favor Democrats and population trends continue in the current direction, there will be a date when the state will be competitive.
But Texas probably isn't turning purple quite as quickly as the Latino population growth might lead us to believe.