Increasing Latino Vote in Midterm Elections

The Pew Hispanic Center has a very interesting new report on the Latino vote in 2010. Their chart shows that the number who have voted in midterm elections has steadily increased, to 6.6 million in the most recent election. This was in 2010 some 6.9 percent of all voters, up 1.1 percent since the last midterm election.

As their summary puts it

Rapid population growth has helped fuel Latinos’ increasing electoral participation. According to the Census Bureau, 50.5 million Hispanics were counted by the 2010 Census, up from 35.3 million in 2000. Over the same decade, the number of Latino eligible voters—adults who are U.S. citizens—also increased, from 13.2 million in 2000 to 21.3 million in 2010.

Yet, there is still the reality of lower participation than their percentage of the population, for rather obvious reasons:

In 2010, 16.3% of the nation’s population was Latino, but only 10.1% of eligible voters and fewer than 7% of voters were Latino. This gap is driven by two demographic factors—youth and non-citizenship.

The report also notes considerable variability within the Latino population, with the college educated Latinos much more likely to vote, and younger voters being the least likely to vote. There is also diversity within the umbrella Latino category:

Nearly half (49.3%) of Cuban origin Latinos voted in 2010 compared with 29.6% of Puerto Rican origin Latinos and 28.7% of Mexican origin Latinos.

The Pew Hispanic Center has been doing some useful research reports for both researchers and teachers working on Latino issues, including those researching the political and other impacts of this growing Latino vote. I have seen very little, speculative or data-driven, research examining the likely political and other impact of this growing voter group over the next few decades. It certainly played a significant role in the election of President Obama in 2008, and likely will again in 2012. What is you take on these data?


  1. Blaque Swan, previously No1KState

    What’s the reason for the difference in voting likelihood between Cuban Americans on one hand and Puerto Rican and Chicano Americans on the other? My guess is socioeconomic status and age plays a part, that Cuban Latinos on average have a higher socioeconomic status and older eligible voters.

    Based on those assumptions, my guess is that the Latino community will increasingly vote Democrat with the exception of Cuban Latinos, the majority of whom I guess will vote Republican. The Republicans, including tea partyists, are doing serious damage to themselves when it comes immigration and race-baiting. “We want our America back!” Back from whom, from what? . . .

  2. cordoba blue

    Nearly half (49.3%) of Cuban origin Latinos voted in 2010 compared with 29.6% of Puerto Rican origin Latinos and 28.7% of Mexican origin Latinos.

    I am wondering if the 50% voter participation from the Cuban Latinos has anything to do with Cuba being a Communist country. Many people who come here from Cuba consider themselves political refugees. In that case, they would certainly be more than happy to vote in a country which is a republic, where citizen participation in governing is expected.
    Maybe Mexicans and Puerto Rican immigrants consider themselves “economic refugees” instead of being here for political reasons. In other words,above any other considerations, they are seeking financial opportunities not available within their country of origin. I would enjoy hearing someone else’s thoughts on these statistics.
    By the way, despite my sometimes debates with Swan, I find this blog one of the most intellectually stimulating on the net. Great stuff is written here. Most political sites don’t delve nearly as deeply into their subject matter as you folks do. Keep up the good work:)

  3. Joe

    Blaque Swan, good question.. The Cubans have fewer recent immigrants and more citizens I would guess, probably the age and SES you point out too. And you are right the Repubs attacks on immigrants really hurts them with most Latinos

  4. Maria


    The points you raise about youth and citizenship are significant reasons for voting rates being lower; however, this will change in the next few years. I think the Latino vote, though not a voting block as strong as the black vote, will become increasingly united because of the anti-Latino, anti-immigrant position by many on the right of the Republican party.

    Blaque Swan, you raise a great point about the differences in socioeconomic status of Cuban Americans. Also, the U.S. government treated the first wave of Cuban refugees very differently than it has other immigrant groups to make a point with Castro and Communism.

    I think the Latino vote will become increasingly Democratic, but hopefully it won’t be “captured” in ways that the black vote has been by Democratic party, meaning they are so secure int their support that they ignore their policy needs.

    I’m not sure most Mexican origin Latinos who have been here for generations consider themselves economic refugees. Maybe this applies to the recent wave of immigrants, but others consider themselves more of victims of colonialism or U.S. imperialism.

  5. cordoba blue

    My understanding was that the net flow of immigration pattern was almost entirely from countries of lower socioeconomic levels to countries of higher socioeconomic levels, and particularly from developing countries to developed countries. While there are other causes associated with poorer countries, isn’t the most common motivation for immigrants the pursuit of greater economic opportunities and quality of life in the destination state?
    The Mexican government is very corrupt, even more Machiavellian than America’s congress. There is also a huge gab between the wealthy and very poor in Mexico, for example. There is virtually no middle class in Mexico. Poor Mexicans live in dire poverty. Plus, the American government does not crack down on American companies hiring Mexicans at below-minimum-wage pay without any benefits.
    Isn’t one of the problems that poor Mexicans are caught between two worlds, neither of which is really very kind to them? Mexico hasn’t made any provisions for the poor finding jobs, and they have no access to education because education is not free in Mexico. Then when they come to the US they are exploited by large companies and maybe anybody else who hires them. Not many positive choices. :

    “Mexico’s Costly and Dysfunctional School System”

    By Dr. José Enrique Vallarta Rodríguez

    In recent years the people of Mexico have had the perception that the nation’s educational system is expensive, dysfunctional and very corrupt.

    Education cannot accurately be called free in Mexico, insofar as public spending annually allotted for education exceeds the entire budgets of Latin American nations such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia and El Salvador. It is even greater than some developed countries, like Spain, Portugal or Luxemburg.

  6. Blaque Swan, previously No1KState

    @ Maria – The black vote hasn’t been “captured” in the way that many allege. Do Dems take us for granted? No question about it. But on the whole, their policies are better for us economically and the entire country. And usually, their policies are better for us racially. They support affirmative action and strengthening civil rights. It’s not as though we vote without weighing our options.

    Meet our other option: Republicans.

    That said, I agree with you on every other point.

    re: Joe – Yeah, the way it looks to me, most Cubans who left shortly after the revolution against Baptista were Hispanic white business men, and that’s why they vote the way they do.

    @ CBlue – You got a crush on me or something?

  7. Maria

    Yes, all very good points. Unfortunately, Mexico is a mess, so much so that I no longer want to visit there for the time being.

    And yes, the thesis that the black vote is captured is overstated by academics when policies on affirmative action etc. do benefit blacks and other people of color and strengthen civil rights as you point out.

    Still, as Luis Fraga et al. state in their new book, Latino Lives in America when it comes to Latinos, “paradox appears to be a prominent feature of the contemporary lives of Latinos.” I would add contradiction to paradox as well!

  8. cordoba blue

    @Swan..funny you should mention that because just when I submitted my first comment on this thread last night, yours popped up. How fortuitous!
    By the way, I have my doubts whether the Hispanics who voted after they left Cuba (and this is what the thread is addressing isn’t it..not which political party they voted for..JUST VOTED PERIOD) voted because they were mostly white..which they were. And it’s no surprise that people leaving a Communist country run to the voting booths when they get to a republic because they were not allowed to under a dictatorship.
    It’s also true that America treated the upper middle class white Cuban refugees with more deference than they treat the poor Latino immigrants from Central America today. I think economic refugees just don’t think very often about voting because they’re too busy working themselves into exhaustion.
    Occam’s Razor..the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

    • Blaque Swan, previously No1KState

      I have my doubts whether the Hispanics who voted after they left Cuba . . . voted because they were mostly white

      Not what I said.

      I said they were “white business men, and that’s why they vote the way they do.”

      I just did some quick checking, and apparently, Cubans voted Dem until 1983 when Reagan made some big to-do about being pro-Cuba but anti-Castro. (Side thought – I just realized that with all the political problems that have faced Latin America in the past, Cuban Americans are the only Latino immigrant group that gets no flack for flying the Cuban flag. Hmmm. . . .)

      Initially, I wondered if white Cubans identified themselves with whites rather than other minorities. That’s why I mentioned that the Cubans who left were white.

      Interesting, though, that you “white” caught your eye while you must’ve skimmed over “businessmen.” Since it’s the case that Republicans are known as “pro-business” (regardless of the actual impact of their policies), it should be clear that I was referencing their conservatism, not the frequency with which they vote.

      Besides, they had no problems with Batista’s dictatorship or the poverty that existed prior to Castro.

  9. cordoba blue

    To clarify: Bertrand Russell offered what he called “a form of Occam’s Razor” which was “Whenever possible, substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities.”
    This is from the above thread: “with the college educated Latinos much more likely to vote”. My point? Poor people don’t have time to philosophize about politics. However, as Central American Latinos stay here longer, as was mentioned, they will form a powerful voting tsunami.

  10. Maria

    Great link! Not only will representatives have to wonder how Latinos will be thinking of them as quoted in the story, but hopefully Latino representatives will have a seat at the political table! I recently interviewed the ONLY Latina to ever serve on the Yakima City Council. In a city that is majority Latino there has never been a Latino on the city council until her…and she was appointed but lost by a slim margin during her re-election campaign to a person who had never held political office, had a DUI, and had domestic violence charges against him. On the other hand, she is a successful business woman, an attorney, an active member of the community, a parent etc. So, we have a long way to go to be at the table but hopefully the changing demographics show that we will be soon!

  11. cordoba blue

    Interesting, though, that you “white” caught your eye while you must’ve skimmed over “businessmen.”
    Interesting why you didn’t just say “businessmen”. Also interesting that you can predict what white people will do..under any given circumstance. It’s almost as if by knowing their RACE alone, without even having met the individual, you can instantly make an accurate judgment. That’s a trick I’d like to learn Swan.

    • Blaque Swan, previously No1KState

      Like I said:

      Initially, I wondered if white Cubans identified themselves with whites rather than other minorities. That’s why I mentioned that the Cubans who left were white.

      I explained why I mentioned their race.

      Let’s see . . . I get along great with Joe and Jessie, and they’re white. Thirtynine is my buddy, and he’s white. Dr. Kaplan is white, and I have no problems with him. Not to mention the white people I know in real life.

      I don’t have a problem with white people. What I have a problem with is people who misread, misconstrue, or otherwise not take my comments for the words I’ve written, and who then proceed to chastise me for what they think I mean.

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