News Column

Young Hispanic Voters Count, Pew Predicts

Nov. 16, 2012

Eric Gill -

Hispanic Voters

Hispanic voters in the United States are projected to surpass whites and other non-Hispanics in the coming decade, according to Pew Research.

Between 2012 and 2030, Pew predicts, "Hispanics will account for 40 percent of the growth of the eligible electorate in the U.S."

Pew, one of the top polling organizations in the world -- and one of the most highly regarded research groups among Hispanic scholars -- offers the growth projection through its Hispanic Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, Election Day exit polls and "a new nationwide survey of Hispanics."

Alluding to the tectonic shift in favor of Hispanic voters over the next 18 years, Pew refers to the "ascendant ethnic voting bloc" as a generational movement. Pew Hispanic Center researchers cite several reasons for the dramatic rise in Hispanic voters, including an increase in immigration to the U.S. of Hispanics over the past decade.

Coupled with pending citizenship status for hundreds of thousands of Hispanics under the Obama administration's recently announced amnesty program for individuals under the age of 30 who were born to illegal immigrants but have no criminal records, Pew's numbers may represent conservative estimates.

Pew singles out youth as the most important factor cited in the survey, titled An Awakened Giant: The Hispanic Electorate Is Likely to Double by 2030.

"Hispanics are by far the nation's youngest ethnic group," Pew researchers stated. "Their median age is 27 years -- and just 18 years among native-born Hispanics -- compared with 42 years for that of white non-Hispanics."

The 2012 presidential and congressional election saw record levels of Hispanic voters participating in polling across the U.S., not just in the Southwest, Florida and California, but also in key urban centers in the Northeast, including Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City, which Democrats have traditionally relied upon to deliver key blocs of African-American minority voters; see Hispanic Population in Select U.S. Metropolitan Areas, 2010.

Pew estimates that "45 percent of the nation's Hispanic population lives in just 10 metropolitan areas and over 76 percent live in 60 of the largest Hispanic metropolitan areas" in the U.S.

Obama Courts Puerto Rico Support

President Obama aggressively courted Hispanics in the latter stages of his re-election campaign, at one point making an impromptu visit to Puerto Rico to pronounce the importance of the U.S.-Hispanic vote to his bid for a second term in the White House.

Prior to Barack Obama's visit to Puerto Rico, some pollsters questioned the wisdom of allocating valuable time from his campaign to an island that is not among the 50 states. Obama was the first sitting president to travel to Puerto Rico since John F. Kennedy made an official visit in 1961, the year Obama was born. The visit paid off, not only for Obama's re-election bid, but for Puerto Ricans seeking to ratify statehood.

Pointing to the significance of Puerto Rico's ballot initiative when he visited the island last summer, Obama promised to support whatever decision Puerto Rican voters felt was in their collective best interest.

Two weeks ago, 61 percent of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood, a process that will require considerable vetting and approval from Congress. However, the outcome of Puerto Rico's historic statehood vote could have a dramatic impact on future presidential elections and the electoral process. With nearly 4 million voters living in Puerto Rico, Pew estimates an additional 4.6 million U.S. voters identify as having Puerto Rican origins. Many of those voters live in Miami, Chicago and New York City, which Obama won easily.

For his part, the president kept his 2008 promise to return to Puerto Rico.

"Although my hair is a little grayer than during my first visit," Obama told a crowd of supporters when he visited in June 2012, as reported by the BBC, "I am glad to be able to keep that promise to the people of Puerto Rico."

He added during the brief campaign side-trip that if Puerto Ricans should choose to make a "clear decision" on statehood, his administration would "stand by" them; see Barack Obama pledges support in rare Puerto Rico visit.

Pew: Young to Vote in Coming Years

Promises are important to Hispanics, and young adults -- both demographics are rising in political importance and voting prominence, according to Pew.

"If the national exit poll's estimate proves correct that 10 percent of all voters this year were Hispanic," Pew stated in its survey summary, "it would mean that as many as 12.5 million Hispanics cast ballots" in the 2012 presidential election.

Pew researchers point out that an estimated 40 million Hispanics in the U.S. did not vote or were ineligible to vote in 2012 because they are too young. Given that an estimated 11.2 million adult Hispanics did not vote this year, simple calculations deduce that 28 million Hispanic youth are living in the U.S. who will potentially be eligible to vote over the next 18 years.

That's a lot of promise for the current commander-in-chief and future presidents to keep in mind.

Source: (c) 2012. All rights reserved

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