The Hispanic vote in Florida has long been an anomaly. It has tended to be heavily Republican, while the Latino vote in the rest of the country has tended to be heavily Democratic. In 2004 President Bush carried 56% of the Latino vote in Florida, but just 40% of the Latino vote nationwide.1 Among Florida’s Cuban-American voters, support for Bush was even stronger – 78% versus 21% for the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry.2
However, the final 2008 general election voter registration figures from Florida, along with recent data from the U.S. Census, show significant changes in both the political leanings and the demographics of Latinos in the electoral-rich Sunshine State.
This year more Hispanics in Florida are registered as Democrats (513,252) than as Republicans (445,526). As recently as 2006, the reverse was true: among Latino registered voters in Florida, more were Republican (414,185) than Democratic (369,906).3
According to the Florida Department of State Division of Elections, Latinos make up 12% of all registered voters in Florida this year, up from 11% in 2006. Their move toward the Democratic Party is part of a broader realignment among the overall electorate of the state. Today, there are 657,775 more registered Democrats than registered Republicans in Florida. In 2006, the Democrat registration advantage was smaller – just 283,856.
As the partisan affiliation of Florida Hispanics has shifted in recent years, so too have their demographic characteristics – especially their patterns of ancestry. Today, Hispanics of Cuban ancestry represent a smaller share (34%) of eligible Hispanic voters than they did in 1990 (46%). Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans and Hispanics of other ancestry represent a greater share of Hispanic eligible voters today compared to 1990. In 2007, 29% of Hispanic eligible voters were of Puerto Rican ancestry, up from 24% in 1990. And the share of Hispanic eligible voters of other ancestry was 37% in 2007, up from 30% in 1990.4
In 2004 Hispanic voters accounted for 11% of all voters in Florida and 6% of all voters nationwide.5 Nationally today, 18.5 million Latinos are eligible to vote, accounting for 9% of all eligible voters.6
With 27 electoral votes, the battleground state of Florida is once again playing an important role in a presidential election. And, in a year when interest in the election is running high across the country, more Floridians are registered to vote than ever. According to the Division of Elections, 11.2 million Floridians are registered to vote, 8% more than in 2006. Voter registrations among Hispanics in Florida are also higher this year than in 2006. More than 1.36 million Florida Hispanics are registered to vote, up 22%.