July 22, 2013

Are unauthorized immigrants overwhelmingly Democrats?

As Congress debates immigration reform, some political leaders and analysts have speculated that there will be “an electoral bonanza for Democrats” if the nation’s estimated 11.1 million unauthorized immigrantsthree quarters of whom are Hispanics – eventually are granted the right to vote.

While there’s no way of knowing if these predictions are accurate, the data provide some insights. In 2012, the Pew Research Center’s National Survey of Latinos found that among Latino immigrants who are not U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents (and therefore likely unauthorized immigrants), some 31% identify as Democrats and just 4% as Republicans. An additional 33% say they are political independents, 16% mention some other political party and 15% say they “don’t know” or refuse to answer the question.

When one takes party “leaners” into account (i.e., those who don’t say they identify with one of the major parties, but in a follow-up question say they feel closer to one party than the other), about half of unauthorized Hispanic immigrants either identify with (31%) or lean towards (23%) the Democratic Party, while about two-in-ten identify with (4%) or lean towards (15%) the Republican Party.  About a quarter (27%) do not identify with or lean towards either party.

Comparing unauthorized immigrant Hispanics with other Hispanic subgroups suggests that as immigrants move closer towards citizenship, it is likely that a greater share of them will identify with one of the major political parties. Our survey found that most legal permanent residents (57%) and foreign-born U.S. citizens (65%) are affiliated with one of the major parties.

Our research has also found a correlation between the amount of time Hispanic immigrants (regardless of legal status) spend in the United States and the share that identifies with a political party. While nearly two-thirds (63%) of Hispanic immigrants who have been in the U.S. at least 15 years identify with one of the two major parties, that share falls to 38% among those who have been in the U.S. for fewer than 15 years.

The predictions about how unauthorized immigrants will vote stem from the fact that among all Latino immigrants who are eligible to vote (i.e. are U.S. citizens) many more identify as Democrats than as Republicans—54% versus 11%. And in the 2012 presidential election, according to the National Election Pool, Latino voters favored Democrat Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney by 71%-27%. While Democratic candidates have garnered a greater share of the Hispanic vote than Republican candidates in every election over the past three decades, the gap has been narrower in some elections than others. For example, in the 2004 election the gap among Hispanic votes between John Kerry and George W. Bush was only 18 percentage points (58% vs. 40%), compared with the 44 percentage point gap in the 2012 election.

This current snapshot shows that unauthorized Hispanic immigrants also lean more Democratic than Republican—though to a lesser degree than Hispanic immigrants who are currently eligible to vote. And it’s uncertain whether these unauthorized immigrants, many of whom are currently unaffiliated, would adopt similar political affiliations and voting patterns if given the chance to naturalize.

Topics: Unauthorized Immigration, Political Party Affiliation, Hispanic/Latino Vote

  1. Photo of Eileen Patten

    is a former research analyst focusing on Hispanic, social and demographic trends at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Mark Hugo Lopez

    is director of Hispanic research at Pew Research Center.


  1. Lucas Hahn3 years ago

    Detected possible error. “while about two-in-ten identify with (4%)”

    4% is 4 out of 100. Two-in-ten is 20 out of 100, or 20%. Two-in-ten≠4%

    1. Eileen Patten3 years ago

      Hi Lucas,

      The two-in-ten you are referring to is for the combined shares of 4% and 15%:

      “while about two-in-ten identify with (4%) or lean towards (15%) the Republican Party.”


  2. Luis Reyes4 years ago

    No too much to know the system, but I’m a republican support, no to the extreme, but I don’t like the idea of ask for everything I need, need no to ask for a decent job, or a place to live and feed my family, democrats are always asking for a opportunity to do what they want to do, that’s no the right way to work in a democracy. In times of campaigns for candidates to any level, I look for the intention, and the volume of hates, and ideas the candidate offer, no matter if he or she is (D) , or (R). unfortunately I’m with no legal status, just never fail in my choice. And yes I have a home, kids in college, and a decent salary.

  3. cynthia curran4 years ago

    Some robots will be doing that for you. Robots are better slaves than illegal immigrants, the Chamber of Commerce will dump illegal immigrants for robots in 10 years, its coming to servie jobs like cleaning and farm work. I would tell illegal immigrants that have been here for a while to go home and get a job in call centers in Mexico that pay 4 per hr. Most illegals in the US make 7.25 to 10 per hr anyways, few make over 15 per hr.

    1. Luis Reyes4 years ago

      Robots will take care of you, they’ll clean your body lying in a cold bed, good for you. Time, place, Where?, sure you gonna end your days in a nice and beauty small village in Mexico, we have a lots of places to people like you. You’ll are very welcome.

  4. Daniel Berrios4 years ago

    Each of us has a $53,378 debt with the federal goverment. It will be nice if 11 million join the party. Hopefully they may not be informed by democrats and help us to reduce the deficit.

  5. Rico Ayers4 years ago

    If we can find all the illegal people to ask them questions, why can’t we deport them?

  6. Robert Hill4 years ago

    I am an American who has lived in Mexico for 13 years, and can tell you that many (most?) of the immigrants to the U.S. are not used to paying taxes, because there is a huge underground economy here. That all changes when they go to the U.S., and are forced to pay taxes on their wages or business income. They are initially attracted to the Democratic party because of their giveaway (welfare) policies, but once they understand how much it costs them in taxes, they will gravitate toward Republican party principles of less government. Mexicans are hard working and entrpreneurial, by nature, but once they understand that their hard work is being taxed to support able bodied welfare recipients, they will re-think their political affiliations. Republican candidates need to do a better job of presenting their case to Latinos, that the U.S. is a land of opportunity, not welfare.

  7. Ernest Kaiser4 years ago

    The republicans worry too much. Once the new immigrants begin to pay regular payroll taxes, rather then under the counter pay, they will think differently. These people are hard workers and given a chance, will be productive citizens. They are not coming here to be unemployed, but to work the American Dream, which is for workers, not loafers.

  8. Bob4 years ago

    Traditionally the Latino vote has trended solidly to Democrats. The drive for making illegal aliens “legal” is primarily being driven by Latinos in Congress. Difficult to understand since illegal aliens don’t vote! Doesn’t it follow that the gratitude for making illegals “legal” will fall to the Demos just as night follows day?

    The first amnesty was for 2.7 illegal aliens. This second amnesty now being debated will act as the first amnesty did by being an irresistible magnet to attract economic refugees. It is very puzzling how Congress people find non-voters whom they are championing instead of meeting the needs of their present US citizen voters.

  9. Dan Martin4 years ago

    I bet the majority of Hispanics will turn Republican on the next generation.

    1. davet4 years ago

      I bet more hispanics will turn democrat

  10. Weldon Berger4 years ago

    “… 16% mention some other political party …”

    What other party/parties? That’s quite a high percentage.

    1. Eileen Patten4 years ago

      Hi Weldon,

      Unfortunately, we don’t have information about what parties they were referring to. But you’re right, that share is quite high. Among all Hispanics 10% say they identify as something other than Republican, Democrat or Independent and among Hispanics registered voters 6% say this. For more details, see the topline for the 2012 National Survey of Latinos: pewhispanic.org/files/2012/10/Po….


      1. Weldon Berger4 years ago

        Thanks so much for the response, Eileen. Maybe fodder for a survey down the road.

        1. Robbie Robertson4 years ago

          Perhaps they identify with the PAN, or the PRI, or maybe the PRD. There are plenty of Mexican parties to choose from.

          1. Luis Reyes4 years ago

            No sea payaso, if you don’t know, calladito se mira mas inteligente, shhhhh!

  11. Jeanine Titus4 years ago

    Of course they are. The terms “illegal” and “democrat” go hand-in-hand.

  12. KwaferA4 years ago

    The Latino community should look at the Black unemployment rate, out of wedlock birth rate, food stamp #’s, average income, crime or incarceration rate, etc. to see how well the Black community has fared by supporting the Democratic party. If they were smart they would get behind the Republican party, just as many enlightened Blacks are beginning to do. The Black migration from the Democratic party to the Republican party will be the biggest political shift in history and the Latino community will be left behind.

  13. Lou Alexander4 years ago

    Breitbart is reporting this as “Latino Illegal Immigrants Favor Dems 8-to-1.”

    I cannot find that ratio in these numbers. Can somebody who is smarter than I am help me out?

    1. bc3b4 years ago

      31-4 is roughly 8-1. See Unauthorized.

      1. Eileen Patten4 years ago

        Hello Lou,

        As bc3b said, the 8-to-1 ratio the Breitbart piece refers to our finding from the 2012 National Survey of Latinos that 31% of unauthorized Hispanic immigrants identify with the Democratic Party, whereas 4% identify with the Republican Party.

        Looking at the share who either say they identify with a party or lean more toward one than the other, the ratio narrows somewhat to just under 3-to-1 (54% vs. 19%).

        Hope this helps answer your question,

        1. Lou Alexander4 years ago

          Thanks for answering.

  14. Eric4 years ago

    A plausible reason for lower Democratic affiliation for eligible voters is that once they become naturalized, they finally have to pay taxes, and the democratic policies used to manufacture voter plantations start to seem less enticing when it comes out of their earnings.

  15. suzy0004 years ago

    I still can’t help but wonder if state registrars are letting illegals register and vote. Watchdog voting org’s are still waiting on the IRS to approve them and they are still being hamstrung. No wonder Obama is jumping on the Trayvon bandwagon…he is trying to divert attention away from all his scandals and constitutional violations.

  16. bc3b4 years ago

    So, looking at “unauthorized” (aka illegal) immigrants who identify with a party, 31% identify with the Democrats and 4% identify with the Republicans.

    Unfortunately, for the Republicans, it also appears that the longer immigrants are in the country, the more likely they are to vote for Democrats.

    Only Republicans who are idiots (e.g. McCain, Graham, Rubio and Flake) will support amnesty, especially with “family reunification” provision which can result in up to 60 million additional aliens (illegals and family reunification).

  17. Walter Bramhall4 years ago

    Yo voto democrata que John McCain gracias

  18. CaptDMO4 years ago

    Astonishing how much one must obfuscate “the data” of a simple concept to hammer
    the square peg into a round hole.

    “It’s complicated!”
    Um, no…it’s not.

    Why engage in the mental masterbation of “Are illegal aliens Democrat?”
    I beg the question of what this “Latest study shows…”

  19. CatoRenasci4 years ago

    If this data is even remotely accurate, there is absolutely no reason in the world, let alone incentive, for the Republican Party to do anything other than insist on border enforcement and the permanent exclusion from citizenship, if not the deportation of, all illegal aliens. Political considerations dictate it, the rule of law dictates it, and frankly, justice for the millions of unemployed in the United States, including especially blacks, dictates it.

    1. Lise P.4 years ago

      Great comment. This administration doesn’t want to enforce federal law on this issue. Ask Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona. I lived in San Diego for years and saw the damage that was done by such porous borders.

  20. John Johnson4 years ago

    First what’s a unauthorized immagrent ? Are you referring to a illegal invader? Will of course they vote comunest , How can conservatives compeat with Santa Clause!

    1. Manny Laureano4 years ago

      Nice attempt at trying to make conservatives look like ignorant fools. Unfortunately, you’re fooling no one… but yourself, that is. Thank you for playing.

    2. Latino Colorado4 years ago

      The GOP should stick to their principles of limited government and demand the enforcement of the law. This will attract Hispanic voters.

      1. KwaferA4 years ago

        Couldn’t agree more with you.

    3. Luis Reyes4 years ago

      Comunest? it’s a community fest or something lie that? tell me.

  21. Charles Edward Brown4 years ago

    The GOP should be the party that enforces the law. We need a Federal Government that will start enforcing immigration laws. NO AMNESTY and no path to US citizenship for illegal aliens. We need to start deporting all illegal aliens and securing our borders. Write laws that make it impossible for an illegal alien to get or keep a job in the US

    1. Phineas Phinque4 years ago

      That will never happen because there are too many rich republicans who want the cheap labor that immigrants provide. If they are illegal, so much the better. They can be cheated and threatened with deportation if they complain. This is the new slavery. Slave owners had to protect their investment by at least providing minimum care even in the seasons when there was little work for them to do. The modern GOP slavers owe their workers nothing.

      If this anti-immigrant political posturing ever looked like it might succeed, you can be sure that the Koch brothers and their ilk will strangle it in its crib.

  22. ErikKengaard4 years ago

    People ought to read and understand “Politics by Other Means, The “Why” of Immigration to the United States”, and “Immigration and Immigration and Usurpation: Elites, Power, and the People’s Will “, both by Fredo Arias-King.

    1. Jose Ferrer4 years ago

      I’ve read some of “Immigration and Usurpation: Elites, Power, and the People’s Will” and am blown away by what I’ve seen so far. There’s a bit of dissonance between compelling revelation and a temptation to see it as racist doctrine; but I am still reading and I am completely blown away.

      Thanks for the reference.