Red, White, and Male: The Abbott Coalition

The political press has spent a lot of energy during the last year focusing on two groups expected (or hoped) to loom large in the results: women and Hispanics. But in the end, maybe more attention should have been paid to Texas' white men, who made up 33 percent of the electorate (the same as white women) and showed up to vote for Greg Abbott over Wendy Davis by 61 points. In focusing on the potential sources of a change in the political narrative, observers missed the powerful forces of continuity that shaped the eventual outcome: the strong political allegiances of white voters, and especially white male voters, to Republican candidates. Those allegiances boosted Governor-elect Greg Abbott's vote totals in a low turnout election that saw the composition of the electorate change very little (if at all) since 2010. (And as for the critical role to be played by women in assembling a winning Democratic coalition, it often got lost in the coverage of the campaign that Rick Perry won among women by eight points in 2010; four years later, Abbott won by nine.) The result was an electorate made up predominantly of voters who have been disposed to vote Republican, buttressed by a subset of the Hispanic population whose attitudes and allegiances tend in a much more Republican direction than the overall voting age Hispanic population – which the Democrats were demonstrably unsuccessful in mobilizing in Texas in 2014. 

In the wake of this failure, for all the talk about the changing demographics in Texas, the same groups that have carried the day for Republicans over the last two decades (and for Democrats before then) did so again, albeit with support from smaller shares of the groups that, in the most optimistic accounts of partisans and those looking for a good story, were supposed to help the Democrats turn the tide.


In addition to the 61 point gap between Davis and Abbott among white men, the graphic above also shows that while Davis outperformed Abbott among Hispanic women (61 percent to 39 percent) the two essentially split Hispanic men. Polling heading into the final few weeks had begun to indicate that Davis was experiencing something of a "man problem." In the October 2014 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, a majority of men expressed an unfavorable opinion of Davis (51 percent) while only 33 percent expressed a positive opinion. 

The postmortems of the 2014 Texas elections will no doubt feature much analysis of the split-partisan identity of the Hispanic electorate and why Davis didn't better connect with Texas' female voters, but the bigger explanation may yet rest on white males and their rejection of Wendy Davis and the Democrats.