More Hispanic Voting Myths

By Steven Malanga, City Journal - November 14, 2012

Many a postmortem of Mitt Romney’s defeat has focused on his poor showing among Hispanics and argued that Republicans won’t do better in national elections until they find a way to appeal to this growing voting bloc, especially by modifying the party’s stance on immigration. Yet these analyses often rely on faulty data that overstate the impact that Hispanic voters have on elections. They also typically ignore the fact that, as exit polls show, Latinos are almost certainly voting, like everyone else, on major issues—especially the economy—not on narrow ethnic lines. Latinos are just like other voters, history suggests: they’re more likely to vote for Republicans when the party puts forward a good candidate with broad appeal.

Most of the analyses that I’ve read begin by noting the rapid growth of America’s Hispanic population. But one-third of adult Hispanics are not U.S. citizens and consequently can’t vote. Even Latinos who are citizens don’t vote as reliably as whites or blacks do, and as a result, their population growth rate doesn’t translate into commensurate voting power. According to U.S. Census data for the 2010 midterm elections (the most recent national data available), adult Hispanics numbered 32.5 million in the U.S. population, but only 10.9 million were registered to vote and only 6.6 million actually voted (up from 5.6 million in the 2006 midterms). By contrast, of the 155.5 million adult white residents in the United States in 2010, 104 million were registered to vote and 74.3 million did vote. In other words, nearly half of the country’s adult whites participated in the 2010 elections; only 20 percent of adult Latinos did.

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