A Democratic presidential candidate has not won the Texas Electoral College votes in over 40 years, yet the state was widely considered a battleground leading up to the Nov. 3 election, based on polls. Statistics post-Election Day indicate analysts misread the interests of a crucial portion of the electorate.
President Donald Trump performed better among Hispanic and Latino voters in 2020 than he did in 2016 in several pivotal swing states that polling indicated were up for grabs only days before the general election. For example, in Florida, Trump made up nearly 10 points on his 2016 showing, earning 45% of the statewide Hispanic and Latino vote. The gain is arguably a key reason Trump defeated President-elect Joe Biden in the state by 3%.
Trump also outpaced his 2016 performance in Texas. Exit polling, per the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), indicates that Trump made up ground in Hispanic support in the historically blue Rio Grande Valley, and other counties and towns along the southern border with Mexico. Trump earned 36% of the statewide Hispanic vote, a 2% increase from his 2016 results.
Similarly, Democratic support in 92% Hispanic Hidalgo County fell 24% in 2020, per WSJ. Further, in Starr County, which is 99% Hispanic — and which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won by 60 points in 2016 — Biden defeated Trump by a mere five points. Trump defeated Biden in Zapata County, which is 95% Hispanic and which Clinton won in 2016 by 33 points.
The biggest voter swings for President Trump came from Latino Democrats on the South Texas border who feared pandemic shutdowns and fewer oil jobs https://t.co/xmO1KgB7s5
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) November 9, 2020
Voter enthusiasm in the region was another notable feature of the 2020 cycle, Politico reported. A Democratic Texas Rep. in Hidalgo County told Politico that there was palpable excitement for Trump.
“We had 49,000 new voters come out in my district that didn’t vote in 2016. Trump brought enthusiasm to young Latinos to put a Trump flag in the back of their pickup truck and drive around town,” Gonzalez said.
Susanne Ramírez de Arellano, former News Director for Univision, in an opinion piece for NBC News, argued that “Latinos voted for Trump because he asked them to.”
“Republicans are just better at talking to various Latinos where they live about what worries them,” Arellano wrote. “Trump understood that Latinos might share some cultural bass notes, but they have different preoccupations and they like to be listened to as individuals.”
“For the Democrats, that is the problem; they view Latinos as monolithic. They flatten Latinos into one identity, deflating a complex and diverse voting bloc into one issue while disregarding at their peril Latinos’ regional identities,” Arellano wrote.
Trump’s rhetoric towards Hispanic immigrants was a focal point of the Democrat’s campaign against him in 2016, and again a feature of former Vice President Biden’s attack in 2020.
“These 500 plus kids came with parents. They separated them at the border to make it a disincentive to come to begin with. Big real tough, really strong…it’s not coyotes that bring them over, their parents were with them,” Biden said, referencing the president’s zero-tolerance policy, which separated children from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“They got separated from their parents. And it makes us a laughingstock and violates every judge of who we are as a nation.” Biden said.
From his heinous acts of separating families at our border to his neglect of the people of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, President Trump has attacked the dignity of Latino families time and time again.
It will end when I’m president.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 1, 2020
Yet immigration issues and potentially inflammatory rhetoric from a political candidate are not the only factors influencing the Hispanic vote, as advocates maintain the Hispanic experience is not the same across the board.
“The Hispanic vote can be decisive, but the Hispanic vote is not monolithic,” said Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, told WSJ. “Many are conservative. They respond well to a message of economic populism and protecting religious freedom.” (RELATED: Texas Looks Like It May Actually Be In Play Due To 1 Surprising Statistic)
The Rio Grande Valley, according to WSJ, is demographically similar to some of Trump’s conservative, rural communities — where patriotism, religion and economic turmoil also converge. Many communities along the border, the report continued, are defined by lower income and education rates. For example, in Starr County, the unemployment rate is the highest in the state at 18.5%.
Economic woes played a similarly significant role in Trump’s relative success among Texas Hispanic voters, according to WSJ. The median household income in the state is just over $64,000 annually, per Census Bureau data. But the average household income in Starr County is $14,000, WSJ reported.
“There’s a lot of parallels between a community that’s 96% Hispanic and a community that’s 96% white,” said Freddy Guerra, a former mayor of Roma, Texas told WSJ. “Racism is not something that people deal with in Starr County because everybody’s brown. Climate change isn’t something they feel. They prefer bread on the table.” ‘