Texas is now a majority minority state
(The Hill) – Hispanics are the largest demographic group in Texas, outnumbering non-Hispanic whites for the first time since the mid-19th century, according to U.S. Census data.
In 2022, the state’s Hispanic population reached 12 million, surpassing the non-Hispanic white population and turning Texas into a majority minority state.
Some 40.2 percent of Texans are Hispanic, and 39.8 are non-Hispanic white.
The demographic milestone means that Hispanics are the largest demographic group in the two largest states in the union, California and Texas.
Per the Census population estimates, Texas also breached another milestone last year, joining California as the only two states with more than 30 million inhabitants.
“Numbers alone do not tell the whole story,” said Robert Tellez, the state director for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the country’s oldest Hispanic civil rights organization, which started in Texas.
“While it is inevitable that Hispanics would become the numeric majority in Texas, until we have fair and equal access to the reins of power through the ballot box, we cannot achieve our full potential. LULAC continues to strive for that day which will and must come,” added Tellez.
The Hispanic and white populations have been roughly equal in size for years — the 2020 Census showed the state’s Hispanic population trailing non-Hispanic whites by just over 200,000 people.
But the Hispanic population of Texas has been growing at a faster clip for years.
Over the last 10 years, the non-Hispanic white population of Texas increased by 4.7 percent, while the Hispanic population grew by 27.5 percent.
“It just drives home the fact that Latinos every year become a bigger factor in every election,” said Chuck Rocha, a Democratic political consultant who engineered independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) successful Latino vote strategy in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries.
“But it also shows you the importance of having elections that are easier to access. But I think it means that there’s a reckoning coming in Texas. I think Latinos are going to demand more representation and more voice in their government,” added Rocha, who pointed out that Texas currently has no Hispanic statewide elected officials.
The state’s demographic change was long believed to be a driver of political change, potentially swinging the state away from nearly 30 years of GOP control. But the “demographics is destiny” strategy has for the most part not panned out for Texas Democrats.
“As we’ve always said, demographics are not destiny, they’re just an opportunity,” Rocha said.
“And it’s an opportunity for both parties to go make your case to an electorate that is way more persuadable than people used to think it is. Especially in a place like Texas.”
Though a majority of Texas Hispanics consistently vote for Democrats, a larger percentage of them vote for Republicans compared to Hispanics in California.
For instance, in 2022 Gov. Greg Abbott (R) won reelection with 40 percent of the Latino vote, according to a CBS News exit poll.
But it’s also more difficult for Latinos in Texas to vote due to the state’s more stringent voting rules, which opponents label voter suppression.
According to the ACLU, Texas suppresses voting by not offering online registration, limiting vote by mail, fostering long lines at polling stations, offering fewer resources for non-English speakers and threatening criminal penalties for voting errors.
Those strategies are especially effective in large cities, where two thirds of the state’s Hispanic population lives.
While California’s Hispanic population was the key driver in turning that state into a Democratic bastion from the mid-1990s onward, non-Hispanic whites outnumbered California’s Latinos until 2015.
And the sheer size of Texas’s Hispanic population could scare away the necessary investment to get Latinos more involved in politics.
“You’re talking about way more people, and so it just takes way more money,” said Rocha.
“Because that way more money is such a large number, people are scared to do that kind of investment into an electorate that white consultants tell them don’t vote at the same rate as white and Black voters. So they’re always an afterthought.”