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Texans preferred O’Rourke to Cruz — at least, Texans born in Texas did

Voters may take nativity into account when voting.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) beat Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D- Tex.) in a competitive race that gained national attention on Nov. 6. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post, Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

In most states, most of the population of the state was born there. There’s a range, understandably. No state has a higher percentage of natives than Louisiana, where three-quarters of residents are natives. The state at the bottom end of the spectrum is Nevada, followed by Florida — two states where retirees looking for warmer weather make up a big chunk of the population.

Third from last is the District. On Tuesday, any number of Americans put in a bid to move to Washington, with scores — particularly Democrats — earning that right. Some people learned that they’d be moving back home, including Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.), whose attempt to oust Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) fell short. O’Rourke gave up his U.S. House seat and will be returning to Texas.

Native-born Texans, it seems, are happy to have him.

Despite perceptions of the state as mostly open ranges and eighth-generation cowpokes trundling around, just over half of the state’s population was born there. There are fewer native Texans in Texas than there are native New Yorkers in New York, a function, in part, of that same trend of migration to the warmer environments in the South and West.

Journalist Chris Hooks, who’s based in Texas, noticed something interesting in the exit poll results published by CNN. Overall, Cruz won reelection by about two percentage points. But among those born in Texas, Cruz lost by three points. His overall victory was a function of his wide margin of victory among those who’d moved to Texas.

In a direct way, this makes sense. O’Rourke was born in El Paso, which he’d go on to represent in the House. Cruz, as you may remember from the 2016 presidential race, was born in Canada. Native Texans voted for the native Texan. Transplants voted for the transplant.

One might be tempted to read into these results that native Texans are more Democratic than Texans on the whole. That may be true, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re mostly Democrats. CNN’s exit polls also looked at the gubernatorial race, in which incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott (R) easily won reelection, earning a majority of votes from both native and transplant Texans (the latter with a wider margin).

The exit pollsters asked the same question in Georgia, a state where the population is a little less Georgia-born than Texas is Texas-born. There, too, there was a split: Native-born Georgians were more likely to support the Republican candidate for governor, Brian Kemp, than the Democrat, Stacey Abrams. Among transplants to Georgia, Abrams earned a majority.

Kemp was born in Georgia. Abrams was born in Wisconsin. (Older Georgians would be forgiven for being fearful of Northerners entering their state.)

It may be a coincidence that the out-of-state candidate in each race fared better among voters born out of the state. (The Texas gubernatorial race was between two Texas natives.) Or it may be the case that there’s an actual advantage that stems from nativity. The sample size, two races, is too small to make sweeping determinations.

We’ll note, though, that Cruz ran hard as a Texan. On Election Day, Hooks wrote about how Cruz has embraced a staunchly conservative idea of the state that is also a lure for a number of other more-conservative voters from elsewhere in the country. On the trail, Cruz seemed to adopt more of a drawl than is his normal, precise style. In an interesting bit of data analysis, a Reddit user noted that only once the Senate race loomed did Cruz start peppering his tweets with “y’alls.”

Native-born Texans appear not to have bought it.

Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke conceded to Ted Cruz in an El Paso speech on Nov. 6. (Video: Reuters)