Yes, Latinos Are Rising, but So Are Latino Nonvoters

Damien Cave, New York Times, January 19, 2016

Here’s the reality of Latino political power today: It’s not what it could be.

Even though 27 million Latinos will be eligible to cast a ballot in November–an increase of 17 percent since 2012–the Latino population is becoming more distant from the American political process, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

Most Latinos who could vote in the last three national elections chose not to. Turnout was just under 50 percent in 2008, and fell to 48 percent in 2012. It dropped to 27 percent in the 2014 midterms, the lowest rate ever recorded for Latinos.

Another low yield may define 2016 as well.

“We’re seeing the number of people who could vote growing at a faster pace than those who do vote,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at Pew Research Center. “There were more nonvoters than voters in the last election, and those nonvoter numbers are rising.”

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Pew argues it’s at least partly a matter of demographics. Around 55 million Latinos live in the United States, a group that includes citizens, green-card holders and a rough estimate of 8.5 million undocumented immigrants (according to figures from the Migration Policy Institute). In all, that’s about 17 percent of the population (Asian-Americans are about 5.5 percent of the population), but the Latino electorate skews young. Millennials make up a larger share of the Hispanic vote, at 44 percent, than the white (27 percent), black (35 percent) and Asian-American (30 percent) electorates.

Young people are less likely to vote regardless of background. And even among millennials, Hispanic turnout is weaker than that of other groups. Pew researchers found that just 37.8 percent of Latino millennials voted in 2012, compared with 47.5 percent of white millennials and 55 percent of black millennials. {snip}

Latinos are also concentrated in states that are not heavily contested in presidential elections, making it harder to spur political engagement. Three states–California, New York and Texas–account for 52 percent of all eligible Latino voters, according to Pew. California and New York reliably swing Democratic, and Texas goes Republican in national elections. One exception, Florida, with a large and growing Hispanic population, could prove crucial as a battleground state.

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