How San Antonio has voted in past presidential elections

‘Bexar County and San Antonio... reflect where Texas is politically,’ political expert from UTSA says

FILE - Voters wait in line at an early polling site in San Antonio, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – The 2016 General Election saw the widest margin of victory between Democratic and Republican presidential candidates in Bexar County in nearly three decades.

Democrat Hillary Clinton was the top pick for San Antonio residents — as well as all major Texas metropolitan areas — by a near landslide with a 79,000 vote difference. Now-President Donald Trump received 240,333 votes in Bexar County.

An analysis by KSAT of voter registration and turnout data from the Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) shows strong Democratic backing in Bexar County, and a hint at who locals may vote for in the Nov. 3 election between Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden. The numbers are based on presidential and vice-presidential votes in the General Election for Bexar County, going back to 1992.

While it’s been the case in recent elections, San Antonio hasn’t always voted blue.

Texas-bred George W. Bush easily took Bexar County in 2000, when he and running mate Dick Cheney won with 52.24% of the vote.

By 2004, in the shadow of Sept. 11, Bush gained an even sturdier ground here. He won with a nearly 50,000 vote margin in that election cycle.

Editor’s note: Click on the player toward the top-right of the graphic to play a timeline of previous presidential elections and the margin of victory in Bexar County.

The county’s gradual shift over the years could be seen with Bill Clinton’s first campaign, according to Dr. Jon R. Taylor, professor and department chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at UTSA.

“You wouldn’t see a Democrat win in Bexar County basically until Bill Clinton came along, and even with Bill Clinton, it was not by much of a margin," he said. “It is after Bill Clinton and after George W. Bush that we begin to see what has become a much stronger blue area for Democrats in Bexar County.”

Before Bill Clinton, Bexar County was mainly a Republican stronghold since the 1980s, he said.

In 2000, George W. Bush had the surname to make him a favorite in Bexar County, as well as his time as Texas governor, a heavy military presence in San Antonio and a difference in this city’s demographics, Taylor said.

“Bexar County was a more Republican county, and that’s not the case today,” he said.

San Antonio a ‘reflection' of Texas' changing political landscape

This isn’t the same San Antonio from 18 or even 14 years ago.

As a city with one of the largest numeric increases in population in the U.S. from 2010-2019, a change in demographics has led to a shift in political beliefs.

It’s not just San Antonio, Taylor says, it’s a nod to where Texas may be headed in the coming years.

“Bexar County and San Antonio, in some respects I think, reflect where Texas is politically,” he said. “It’s that gradual, incremental move from being a Republican area, not necessarily a strong Republican area, but a Republican area, to a weak Republican area, to basically a purple area, and now a blue area.”

“I think you’re seeing somewhat the same thing taking place around the state.”

1992, 2008, 2016 election years had the highest turnout in Bexar County

Other than 1992 and 2008, the 2016 General Election saw the most registered voters who actually made it to the polls in Bexar County.

According to SOS data, in 2016, Bexar County had 1,045,357 registered voters and 589,645 of them cast a ballot — a 56.41% turnout.

While that year had the largest number of actual voters in Bexar County, 2008 saw a slightly higher turnout of 56.46%.

The 1992 General Election appears to be the most impressive when a stunning 71% of registered voters in the county turned out.

Bill Clinton and Al Gore won Bexar County with a slim margin of 3,697 votes, just ahead of George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle.

In that cycle, 40.65% voted Republican, 41.54% voted Democrat, and 17.36% voted for the independent candidate Ross Perot.

While George H. W. Bush won Texas in his re-election bid, Bill Clinton was named the 42nd U.S. president.

Looking ahead to Nov. 3

Bexar County has more than 1,189,000 registered voters, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

How they’ll vote will be decided in three weeks of early voting from Oct. 13-Oct. 30, plus Election Day on Nov. 3.

An extra six days of early voting were added by Gov. Greg Abbott in a proclamation he issued to allow for more time and better social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While polls have suggested “a lot of volatility” between Trump and Biden, the outcome will depend on turnout and energy from voters, Taylor said.

It’s possible Biden could narrowly win Texas, Taylor said, if voters in the state’s main metro areas off-set voters in rural or less-populated areas.

He added that voters in Bexar, Harris and Dallas counties flipped to blue about four to six years ago, and they’re not flipping back.

“For the first time since Barack Obama was running for president, the Democrats have a real shot at winning Texas,” he said.

WATCH: Why Texas ranks near bottom in voting ease and access compared to other states

Other election resources:

About the Author

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

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