The Growing Impact of the Latino Vote

In NLLSA on February 21, 2010 by marizagarza

Latino voters are making an increasingly substantial impact on the American political system over the past decade. From 2000 to 2008, Latino turnout increased by approximately 64%. The Power of the Latino Vote in the 2010 Elections, a report released by America’s Voice earlier this month, outlines Latino voting trends, noting that a substantial portion of the Latino population has proven to be a swing consistency.

Below are some highlights from the report:

The Latino Vote is Trending Democratic – With Big Implications for the Electoral Map

Latinos have been trending Democratic for years, but the Democratic Party does not necessarily hold a lock on these voters.  Latinos nationwide voted for the Democratic presidential nominee over the Republican by a margin of 59% to 40% in 2004 (Kerry‐Bush) and 67% to 31% in 2008

(Obama‐McCain).  The swing was even more pronounced among foreign‐born Latino voters; with 52% choosing Kerry in 2004 and 48% choosing Bush—nearly breaking even—while in 2008 75% chose Barack Obama and 25% supported John McCain…

While it is possible that these trends will continue over the coming election cycles, there is a segment of the Latino electorate that is clearly up for grabs.  Both parties will need to work hard to continue to court the Latino vote, with big implications for races in the southwest, Florida, and other states with large Latino populations as well as “new immigrant” areas across the map.

SpanishDominant Voters – A Hidden Swing Demographic

In 2004, Republican strategist Karl Rove and President George W. Bush recognized that Spanish‐ dominant Latino voters—slightly less than half of the overall Latino electorate— were a potent audience for GOP political appeals.  Most of these voters are foreign‐born, naturalized U.S. citizens, and the Republican emphasis on “family values” resonated with many of them. According to NDN, the GOP more than doubled its share of the Latino vote from 1996 to 2004 by prioritizing outreach to Spanish‐dominant Latinos.

Immigration Debate – A Key Factor in Shift Toward Democrats

Although immigration is not the number one issue for most Latino voters, it is clearly a defining issue.  Like all Americans, the economic crisis continues to be the biggest concern for Latinos voters.  However, their closeness to the immigrant experience makes immigration reform a threshold issue for many.

According to a report by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), “the potency of immigration as a ‘voting issue’ should not be underestimated.  Both polling data and Hispanic voting behavior over multiple election cycles shows that immigration serves as a lens through which Latinos assess the political environment and candidate attitudes not just toward immigrants, but toward their community as a whole.” In a May 2009 poll of Latino voters by Bendixen & Associates, 82% of Latino voters said that the immigration issue is important to them and their families, and 69% said that they personally know someone who is undocumented…

An overwhelming 87% of respondents in the Bendixen poll said they would not consider voting for a candidate who was in favor of forcing most of the undocumented population to leave the country. The same poll also demonstrated the damage inflicted to the GOP brand image by Republicans’ tone on immigration.  Only 23% of Bendixen poll respondents trusted congressional Republicans to “do the right thing on the immigration issue,” while 60% did not trust the Republicans.  Comparatively, by a 69‐17% margin, poll respondents trusted Democrats in Congress to do the right thing on immigration and they trusted President Obama on the issue by an 83‐10% margin…

What’s Next for Latinos, Immigration, and Politics?

The growth of the Latino electorate is going to be an important factor in an increasing number of congressional races across the country, this year and beyond.  Moreover, how both parties handle the issue of comprehensive immigration reform will have a serious impact on Latino political behavior…

The role of Latinos in American politics is only going to grow in importance as the 2010 Census and subsequent reapportionment process gets underway. According to a report by America’s

Voice Education Fund, new Members of Congress in states projected to gain seats following the2010 Census, such as Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, and Texas, will owe their positions in large part to the expanding Latino population.  Additionally, the states projected to lose congressional seats following the Census would have fared worse had Latinos not moved there in record numbers.  And the number of Latino voters—not just residents—in these states is increasing.  In five of the eight states projected to gain seats after Census 2010, and in all ten of the states projected to lose seats, Latinos made up a greater share of the overall electorate in 2008 than they did in 2000.

For more information or for the entire report, see


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