September 8, 2014

Latino vote is small in nearly all states with hot Senate races

Latino Vote, 2014 MidtermsPresident Obama has delayed any executive action on immigration policy until after this year’s midterm elections. The president noted that part of the reason for this decision was to “make sure we get it right.” Meanwhile several analysts have said that any executive action might energize conservatives and jeopardize the Senate’s Democratic majority given the number of Democrats at risk in toss-up states, most of which have few Latino voters.

Last June, the president said that he was going to do what he could before the end of the summer with his executive powers to fix the nation’s immigration system since Congress had failed to pass any immigration reform. Among the many possible actions the president has been considering is deportation relief for some of the nation’s 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants, something which Latinos said was a greater priority than creating a pathway to citizenship, according to a Pew Research Center poll of Latinos last fall.

Latinos make up 5% or less of eligible voters (U.S. citizens ages 18 and older) in eight of the nine states with toss-up Senate races (as indicated by Real Clear Politics, FiveThirtyEight and CNN). The one exception is Colorado, where Latinos are about 14% of eligible voters. 

In states where registration statistics are available showing how many Latinos are registered to vote, an even smaller share is Latino. Just 1.9% of North Carolina registered voters and 1.7% of Georgia registered voters are Latino.

Latinos also make up larger shares of each state’s total population than they do among eligible voters, reflecting their relative youth and greater number of immigrants who are not U.S. citizens.

Whether the president’s decision will impact Latino voter turnout remains to be seen. Historically, Latino voter turnout in midterm elections has been consistently low. In 2010, just 31.2% of eligible Latino voters voted, compared with 48.6% of non-Hispanic whites who voted that year.

Nonetheless, the potential impact of the Latino vote is rising. There are more than 25 million Latinos who are at least 18 years of age and a U.S. citizen in 2014, up from 21.3 million in 2010 (though not all are registered to vote). These gains largely reflect the growing number of young Latinos who turn 18 each year, about 800,000 in 2012, and who are often first time voters. In addition, three-quarters of Latino eligible voters live in just seven states — California, Texas, Florida, New York, Arizona, New Jersey and Illinois. Only Texas, Illinois and New Jersey have Senate elections this year, none of which are close.

As the number of unaccompanied minors illegally entering the U.S. surged, the public has refocused attention on border security as a priority for immigration policy. That’s particularly true for Republicans, who say by a 53% to 36% margin that the focus should be on better border security and tougher enforcement instead of a policy approach that also includes a pathway to citizenship. Overall just 9% of Republicans say the priority should be a pathway to citizenship.

Topics: 2014 Election, Hispanic/Latino Vote

  1. Photo of Mark Hugo Lopez

    is director of Hispanic research at Pew Research Center.

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2 Comments

  1. Antonio Gonzalez2 years ago

    Mark,

    Your analysis is curiously misleading in at least two ways.

    1) The rate of Latino turnout is irrelevant in determining the importance of our vote. As you know the share of Latino votes cast is key to understanding the relevant weight as well as the trend in Latino empowerment. By that measure Latinos will be a greater share (%) of all votes cast then ever before in an off year election. They will also cast at least a million more votes than they did in 2010 -an election in which they also reached a record level. Indeed the fact that Latino turnout rate is lower than blacks and whites simply reflects that our electorate grows faster than their’s does and that well-known mechanisms that depress voter participation of all younger, poorer, and less educated Americans are even more effective among Latinos.

    2) Using the denominator of eligible Latinos to show that we have a lower participation rate is also misleading. You and everyone else knows that eligible persons don’t vote. Registered voters vote. By that measure according the CPS post-election study in 2010 nearly 70% of registered Latinos voted. That percentage will be lower in 2014 …given the givens…but it will still result in record numbers of Latino votes cast or about 8 million. This is true because Latinos grew by 2 million plus voters between 2010 and 2014.

    What’s your point Mark? That Latinos who have small percentages of the electorate in Senate battleground states this cycle (except for Colorado) aren’t relevant? Be careful with that, as close races can enable even small groups to be decisive.

    We expect more from Pew. Illuminate don’t obfuscate!

    Respectfully,

    Antonio Gonzalez
    WCVI President.

    Reply
    1. Mark Hugo Lopez2 years ago

      Hello Antonio.

      Thank you for your comments. You are correct that the Latino electorate is growing. As I note in the post, the number of Latino eligible voters has reached 25.1 million in 2014 and its highly likely that a record number of Latino voters will participate in this year’s elections too, partly because of demographic growth in the number of potential Latino voters. Whether one million more or even two million more Latinos vote this year compared with 2010 remains to be seen.

      But the fact still remains that in states with close Senate races this year, Latinos are a small share of eligible voters. And yes, while small groups can be a deciding factor in close elections, it remains to be seen if that will be the case for Latinos in these states.

      I agree that turnout rates among registered voters are an important measure of voter participation–and those rates are much higher for Latino voters, as they are among all voters. But here too Latino participation rates are lower than they are among non-Latinos. For example, in 2010 according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the turnout rate nationally among registered voter Latinos was 60.5% while for registered voter whites it was 71.3%, 69.6% for registered voter blacks and 62.4% for registered voter Asians (pewhispanic.org/2011/04/26/appen…). And the post provides some specific statistics for NC and GA on Latino voter registration levels this year.

      Regardless of the share, the Latino vote is important to understand as we chronicle Latinos’ increasing impact on the nation.

      I hope this helps to answer some of your questions.

      Reply