Rick Perry and the Latino vote, part 1

Say what you want about Rick Perry, he’s got a much firmer grasp of the changing demographics of Texas and their political implications than many of his partymates do. As such, he plans to compete vigorously for the Latino vote in Texas.

Perry campaign manager Rob Johnson said the campaign will try and improve upon the one-third of the Latino vote that the governor has won in past elections.

“We can do better,” he said.

And for the future of the party, it must do better, Johnson said, citing that Hispanics will make up 50 percent of the state’s population in 10 years. A party that only wins one-third of that vote will have an uphill election battle, he said.

I’ll leave it to others to judge the efficacy and likelihood of success for Perry’s strategy. What I want to do is check Rob Johnson’s math. I don’t have access to any exit polling data from 2002, so I’m going to do my best to take a rough guess at Perry’s support level among Latinos from 2002 by looking at State Rep district data. What I’ve done is pulled out all of the Governor’s race returns from the SRDs in which the percentage of Spanish surname voter registrations (SSRVs) is at least 50. Here’s what that data looks like:

HD Representative Perry Sanchez Perry% Sanchez% SSVR ========================================================== 031 Guillen 1,965 18,154 9.8 90.2 91.0 033 Luna 12,466 16,167 43.5 56.5 53.1 034 Capello 13,861 14,512 48.9 51.1 52.4 035 Canales 15,794 17,186 47.9 52.1 52.2 036 Flores 4,857 13,168 25.3 74.7 79.7 037 Oliveira 4,833 10,360 31.8 68.2 81.7 038 Solis 7,465 11,614 38.8 61.2 74.5 039 Wise 5,288 12,417 29.9 70.1 78.1 040 Pena 2,829 11,678 19.5 80.5 86.8 041 Gutierrez 9,137 10,516 46.5 53.5 62.6 042 Raymond 3,399 27,357 11.1 89.9 85.5 043 Herrero 9,615 14,975 39.1 60.9 68.2 074 Gallego 13,998 16,342 46.1 53.9 55.7 075 Quintanilla 5,541 11,940 31.7 68.3 77.7 076 Chavez 3,659 16,769 17.9 82.1 64.6 077 Moreno 4,640 13,191 26.0 74.0 69.9 078 Haggerty 14,662 12,041 54.9 45.1 51.6 079 Pickett 6,815 10,759 38.8 61.2 80.0 080 Garza 11,179 15,628 41.7 58.3 68.9 104 Alonzo 3,650 10,342 26.1 73.9 51.3 116 Mrtinez-Fischr 8,858 12,798 40.9 59.1 57.5 117 Mercer 9,748 10,621 47.9 52.1 56.7 118 Uresti 9,907 11,917 45.4 54.6 56.7 119 Puente 8,781 13,061 40.2 59.8 57.2 123 Villarreal 9,927 13,325 42.7 57.3 58.2 124 Menendez 9,052 12,551 41.9 58.1 57.0 125 Castro 11,861 13,973 45.9 54.1 58.0 143 Moreno 3,890 9,294 29.5 70.5 58.3 145 Noriega 4,500 9,921 31.2 68.8 60.4 Total 232,177 392,577 37.2 62.8

There are many caveats to keep in mind. Not everybody who has a Spanish surname is actually Latino, and not everyone who is Latino has a Spanish surname. The percentage of Spanish surname voter registration may or may not have any relation to the percentage of people with Spanish surnames who voted. And even if you assume that the share of Latino voters is more or less constant from county to county and district to district, there will still be fluctuations. Basically, we’re using a yardstick to measure molecules.

Having said all that, I don’t see anything in these numbers to contradict what Johnson said. I do want to note, however, that the more heavily Latino a district was, the worse Perry tended to perform. To put it another way, I added up the vote totals in all the districts where the SSRVs were in the 50’s, in the 60’s, in the 70’s, and 80 or above. Here’s what that looks like:

SSVR Pct Perry Sanchez Perry% Sanchez% ==================================================== 50-60 146,455 184,130 44.3 55.7 60-70 42,730 81,000 34.5 65.5 70-80 23,151 49,139 32.0 68.0 80+ 19,841 78,308 20.2 79.8

Again, this metric is too crude to make any strong conclusions, but the trend is clear enough. If I were Nate Silver I’d draw you a graph and throw some correlation coefficients at you, but let’s just pretend I did that for now.

I did not do the same analysis for the other statewide candidates, because there are only so many hours in the day. My eyeballing of the data suggests that in most places Perry did better than some of his ballotmates, like David Dewhurst, and worse than others, like Carole Keeton Rylander. In other words, with the exception of HD42, which is in Tony Sanchez’s home county (Webb), Perry’s relative position was about where it was overall. I did not see anything that suggested to me that he did better than you might expect. Maybe I’ll tackle that another day.

The conclusions I will draw are that Perry is certainly capable of getting a third or better of the vote in heavily Latino areas, and that if his efforts aren’t matched by something at least as strong, he will do well enough to make a Democratic victory all but unattainable. You’ll see more evidence of that in Part 2.

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10 Responses to Rick Perry and the Latino vote, part 1

  1. accountant says:

    Charles, one point to think about in your calculations . It’s not the counties with the highest percentages of SSRVs; it’s the counties where the most SSRVs live — the raw number of SSRVs.
    The democrats who take the “Valley Vote” for granted (just as they do the AA voters) think that where the Hispanic votes are. SSRVs are not isolated to the border region; Hispanic surnames and voters are everywhere. Midland’s number one radio station is Spanish. Enough said. Perry will reach his goal. Why do I say that? Having watched the Governor he never boasts about political objectives unless he knows he can beat them. Say what you will about Perry. He knows Texas and Texans better than any living politician.
    White will be his piñata come this November if Perry has sets out to grasp 50% share of the Hispanic vote.

  2. Accountant,

    First, I looked at every SRD in the state. My list above contains districts in Bexar, Dallas, El Paso, and Harris Counties. I don’t understand what your objection is.

    Second, what method would you propose for isolating the Latino vote in districts with a large number of SSRVs but a relatively low percentage of them as a whole? Maybe in Tom Craddick’s district (22% SSRV), all the white people voted for Perry and all the Latinos for Sanchez. Sure, that’s ridiculous, but how can you disprove that from the numbers that are available? That’s why I limited my list to SRDs with an SSRV percentage of at least 50.

  3. Mainstream says:

    There is a fairly large body of political science analysis of this issue, both in academic journals and in data submitted to the courts in connection with various voting rights redistricting disputes. The last statewide legal case is stale, but the recent City of Irving cases likely would have the sort of bivariate ecological regression analysis which the courts require and most political scientists rely upon. There is always a problem with these analyses in assuming that inner city Hispanics vote the same as their suburban cousins. I would also expect that the U of H and San Antonio area Hispanic research institutes have exit-poll and similar data which would show Hispanic voter support for all sorts of candidates, and may have published their data.

  4. Mainstream says:

    Most of this analysis is conducted at the individual voting precinct level, which provides a lot more data points.

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