Interest in the 2008 Campaign
Interest in the presidential campaign was high in 2008. Nearly three-in-four Latinos (74%) say they were more interested in the 2008 election than in the 2004 election. However, compared with Latinos who are U.S. citizens, Latinos who are not citizens expressed a greater interest in the 2008 election than in the 2004 election—80% versus 71%. Similarly, immigrant Latinos, more so than native-born Latinos, say they were more interested in politics in 2008 compared with 2004—78% versus 70%—even though not all of them could vote because they are not U.S. citizens.
Young Latinos ages 18-29, more so than Latinos ages 55 or older, say they were more interested in politics in 2008 than in 2004—82% versus 62%.
More than one-in-five Hispanic voters (21%) say that 2008 was the first year they voted in a U.S. election. This is higher than what is observed among voters in the general U.S. population, but it is similar to the share of African-American voters who say they were first-time voters. According to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (November 2008), 8% of all voters, and 20% of African-American voters, in 2008’s general election were casting ballots for the first time.
Almost half (47%) of Hispanic voters ages 18-29 say they were first-time voters in last year’s presidential election. In comparison, 20% of Hispanic voters ages 30-39 and 15% of Hispanic voters ages 45-54 say they were first-time voters.
While younger Latino voters are more likely than older Latino voters to say they were first-time voters, there is no statistical difference in the likelihood of foreign-born and native-born Latino voters to say they were first-time voters; the rates are 23% and 20% respectively.
There are some differences in the prevalence of first-time voters among Hispanics, based on their political affiliations. Three-in-ten (30%) Hispanic voters who identify themselves as independents were first-time voters, while 23% of Hispanic voters who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party were first-time voters. Among Hispanic voters who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, 12% say they were first-time voters.
Contact with the Campaigns
Many Hispanics were contacted by nonpartisan voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts as well as the political campaigns during 2008’s election season. Almost four-in-ten (38%) Latinos say they were contacted and encouraged to register to vote or to get out to vote. Among the native born, 50% were contacted.
Among those who were contacted, 59% say they were contacted by the Obama campaign, while 43% say they were contacted by the McCain campaign.
The majority of Latinos who were contacted by the presidential campaigns were contacted in English. Two-thirds (67%) of Latinos contacted by the McCain campaign were contacted in English, as were 58% of people contacted by the Obama campaign. Sizable proportions who were contacted by the presidential campaigns received messages in both English and Spanish. The Obama campaign was more likely than the McCain campaign to contact Latinos in both languages—32% versus 25%. The likelihood of being contacted by either campaign in Spanish only was quite low; 8% of persons contacted by the Obama campaign were contacted in Spanish, compared with 5% of those contacted by the McCain campaign.
Sources of Campaign News Information
Television was the most popular conduit of news about the 2008 presidential campaign among Latinos. More than eight-in-ten (82%) report obtaining most of their information regarding the campaign through television news. Newspapers and the Internet also proved important sources of campaign news information in the most recent election cycle. Eighteen percent of Latinos report that they used each of these sources to obtain most of their campaign news, and in a follow-up question, another 21% of Latinos report obtaining at least some campaign news from the Internet. Ten percent of Latinos obtained news regarding the campaign from radio. Magazines were a source of campaign information for 3% of Latinos.
The language in which Latinos gathered campaign news varies by media source. Almost one-quarter (23%) of Latinos who got information from television report that the information was in Spanish, while one-third (33%) got their television campaign news in English and 44% obtained television news in both languages. Latinos who obtained information from the Internet or newspapers were more likely to obtain that news exclusively in English. Sixty-five percent of campaign news from the Internet was in English, as was 57% of news from newspapers. Six percent of Latinos who obtained campaign news from the Internet obtained that information in Spanish, as did 15% of Latinos who used newspapers. Among both Internet users and newspaper readers, 28% obtained news in both languages. Thirty-eight percent of people who obtained campaign news from the radio did so in English, 31% listened in Spanish, and 31% obtained campaign news from the radio in both languages. (The sample of respondents obtaining information from magazines is too small to disaggregate by language.)
The Voting Process
The 2008 presidential election was marked by high turnouts throughout the country and across demographic groups (Lopez 2008). Nationally, rates of early voting and voting by mail were also exceptionally high (Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, November 2008). The same is true for Latinos, whose overall voting profile closely resembles that of the general population.
Among Latinos, more than one-third (36%) cast ballots in the presidential election prior to Election Day. This is similar to voting practices in the general population, of whom 34% voted prior to Election Day (Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, November 2008).
All told, 83% of Latinos who voted in the November 2008 election did so in person, either on Election Day or earlier. Sixteen percent of Latinos used mail-in ballots. In comparison, 85% of the general U.S. population voted in person, and 14% voted by mail.
More than one-third (35%) of Latinos who voted in person say that they had to wait in line to vote. Ten percent waited less than 15 minutes; 15% waited up to an hour; and 9% waited an hour or more. These wait times are similar to those experienced by the general U.S. population.
Learning About the Presidential Campaigns
Overall, 83% of Hispanic voters say they learned enough from the campaigns to make informed choices in last year’s election. This is similar to the share (85%) of voters in the general population who say they learned enough to make informed choices (Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, November 2008).
Satisfaction with the Presidential Candidates
In a long presidential election campaign with more than 20 candidates from many parties, nearly three-in-four (74%) Hispanic voters were satisfied with the field of candidates. In comparison, 67% of the general U.S. population voters say that they were satisfied with the choice of candidates in last year’s campaign (Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, November 2008).
Almost nine-in-ten (88%) Latino voters who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party say they were satisfied with their candidate choices. In contrast, 58% of Latino independent voters and 43% of Latino Republican voters say they were satisfied with their options.
Eight-in-ten (80%) first-time voters say they were satisfied with the choice of candidates.
Among young Latino voters ages 18-29, 85% say they were satisfied with candidate choices in the most recent election, while only 66% of those ages 55 and older felt that way.
Top Issues in the 2008 Election for Latino Voters
Among Hispanic voters, the issues that mattered most in determining their vote were the economy and jobs. When asked in an open-ended question, more than three-in-ten (31%) say as much. Candidate attributes (14%) and the general idea of change (13%) are also cited as important in affecting voting decisions. Six percent of Latino voters cite immigration as the issue that mattered most to them in deciding how they voted for president in 2008.
Political Engagement in the 2008 Election
More than half (51%) of all Latinos say they participated in at least one political activity other than voting during the most recent election cycle.
- More than one-third (36%) of Latinos say they used the Internet to find information about a political candidate.
- More than one-fourth (26%) say they tried to persuade someone to vote for or against a particular party.
- Almost one-in-five (18%) of all Latinos say they displayed a bumper sticker or poster or wore clothing or a button related to a political campaign.
- About one-in-ten (11%) Latinos say they attended a political or campaign-related meeting in the past year.
- Nearly one-in-ten Latinos (9%) say they contributed money to a candidate running for public office. Among those who did so, one-third (33%) say they contributed online.
- Five percent of Latinos say they worked as a volunteer or for pay for a political candidate in the last year.
Latinos ages 18-29 were more engaged in the election process than were older Latinos. More than six-in-ten (62%) young Latinos engaged in at least one activity during the election year, compared with 37% of Latinos ages 55 and older. On specific political activities, one-third (33%) of young Latinos say they tried to persuade someone how to vote, while less than a quarter of older Latinos say they did so (23% of those ages 30-39; 23% of those ages 40-54; and 21% of those ages 55 or older). Similarly, almost half (49%) of young Latinos say they used the Internet to find information about a candidate, compared with only 36% of those ages 30-39; 33% of those ages 40-54; and 14% of those ages 55 and older. And young Latinos were more likely to display campaign buttons and signs than were their counterparts ages 55 and older—23% versus 12%.
Voters, more than non-voters, say they used the Internet to find information about a candidate—49% versus 28%. Hispanic voters are also more likely than non-voters to say they tried to persuade someone how to vote—33% versus 25%. And voters were more likely to say they displayed a bumper sticker or other political campaign sign—24% versus 13%. More than one-third (36%) of Hispanic voters say they did not engage in any of those activities in the past year, a smaller percentage than those who were not voters (53%).
Looking ahead, more than four-in-ten (44%) Latinos say that the recently completed election campaign has made them more likely to participate in politics in the future. This is particularly true among young Latinos ages 18-29, over half of whom say so (52%). In comparison, three-in-ten Latinos ages 55 and older say the recent election campaign has made them more likely to participate in politics in the future.
More than half (52%) of Hispanics who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party say that, given 2008’s presidential campaign, they are more likely to participate in politics in the future. In comparison, 32% of Hispanics who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party and 28% of Hispanic independents say they are more likely to participate in politics in the future.