Texas Hispanics prefer Democratic nominee for governor Lupe Valdez over Republican incumbent Greg Abbott by a slim margin and Beto O’Rourke over Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz by a wider margin. But does it matter for a voting block that notoriously fails to turn out on Election Day?
The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy for the Telemundo Spanish language stations in Texas, gives Democrats a clear advantage among Hispanics in the November election. Valdez—who has virtually dropped off the radar in her campaign against Abbott—has been running on her appeal to Hispanic voters. But her 44 percent to 38 percent lead among self-identified Hispanic voters who say they are likely to cast a ballot puts her barely ahead of the governor when you consider the four-point margin of error of the poll. O’Rourke, by contrast, leads Cruz by a margin of 54 percent to 31 percent among the Texas Hispanics surveyed. Ironically, O’Rourke, who has gone by the Spanish nickname “Beto” all of his life, has been accused of cultural appropriation by some Hispanics, while Cruz, who is Hispanic, but has used the Anglicized nickname “Ted” most of his life, falls short among voters polled.
Both races suggest that neither Democrats nor Hispanics should take for granted the Hispanic vote in Texas. And these results come as a national poll commissioned by the NALEO Educational Fund/Latino Decisions poll shows Hispanics feel like they are being ignored by candidates nationwide. “This poll confirms what we have known for some time—that Latino voters are still being ignored by the nation’s major campaigns, political parties and funders. We are once again witnessing an overall lack of investment in Latino outreach efforts across the country in Election 2018, with the little funding that is available being diverted towards partisan outcomes,” said Arturo Vargas, NALEO Educational Fund chief executive officer.
In the two largest metros in Texas, the governor’s race is a dead heat among the Hispanic respondents in the Telemundo poll. In Dallas-Fort Worth, Valdez leads Abbott by a single percentage point: 41 percent to 40 percent. Valdez was serving as the elected Dallas County sheriff when she resigned last year to run against Abbott.
In Houston, the two are tied at 39 percent. In Hispanic-heavy San Antonio, Abbott is ahead of Valdez by a margin of 43 percent to 40 percent. Only along the border does Valdez open the gap. In the Rio Grande Valley, she is ahead by a margin of 54 percent to Abbott’s 32 percent. In El Paso, she’s ahead of Abbott by a margin of 52 percent to 33 percent among the Hispanic respondents. The only other area in which Abbott takes a lead in this poll is gender. Forty-five percent of the Hispanic men polled said they would vote for the governor, while 40 percent support Valdez. Among women, Valdez leads 47 percent to 33 percent.
The closest O’Rourke and Cruz poll is in Houston, where the Republican comes within five percentage points of his challenger. O’Rourke has a lead of 45 percent to 40 percent among Houston-area Hispanics who responded. In Dallas-Fort Worth, O’Rourke’s margin bumps up significantly, where he enjoys a 51 percent to 39 percent advantage over Cruz. And along the border, it’s a Democratic blowout in the U.S. Senate race. The Rio Grande Valley polled 61 percent to 22 percent in favor of O’Rourke. And in O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso, the margin of his lead is 68 percent to Cruz’s 20 percent.
Hispanic voters statewide said that immigration and border security is the most important issue facing Texans, with a 20 percent margin. The economy polled second at 15 percent and health care followed closely behind at 12 percent among the 625 respondents who were polled between August 20 and August 22.
While the numbers may be welcome news for Democrats, who have consistently trailed in political polls this year, it does point to a strategic challenge. Hispanics now make up about one-third of the state’s registered voters, but they remain unreliable voters on Election Day. Eight of the state’s 36 congressional districts are Hispanic majority, according to voting records with the Texas Legislative Council. Voter turnout in those districts for the last gubernatorial race in 2014 averaged 25 percent among Hispanics. The average turnout in the other 28 congressional districts that year was 35 percent. Overall, Hispanic turnout was 14 percent while white turnout was 66 percent.