Before the 2010 election some commentators argued that the failure to address immigration would increase Hispanic turnout, while others argued it would cause them to stay home. New Census Bureau voting data show that neither of these predictions was correct. Hispanic turnout conformed to the pattern of recent mid-term elections.
Here are the findings:
- Prior to the 2010 election, the Center for Immigration Studies projected that Hispanics would comprise 6.8 percent of the national electorate in congressional elections. The new data from the Census Bureau almost exactly match this projection, with Hispanics comprising 6.9 percent of the vote.
- Our projection was correct because it was based on the assumption that Hispanic turnout would follow past patterns for mid-term elections and that Hispanics would neither be especially animated nor especially disengaged in 2010.
- The 31.2 percent of Hispanic citizens who voted in 2010 matches the 31.2 percent who voted in the 2002 mid-term election, and is very similar to the 32.3 percent who voted in 2006. All of these values fall within the margin of error of ± 1.7 percentage points and indicate that 2010 was not unusual.
- In addition to the 6.9 percent of voters who identified as Hispanic in the 2010 election, 77.5 percent of voters identified as non-Hispanic white, 11.5 percent as non-Hispanic black, and 2.4 percent identified as non-Hispanic Asian.
- The size of the Hispanic vote varied significantly by state. In 2010, Hispanics were less than 5 percent of the vote in 39 states plus the District of Columbia, and more than 10 percent of the vote in only five states (New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida).
- Polling of Hispanics indicates that immigration is not one of the top issues for Hispanics. Similar to other voters, education, jobs, health care, and the federal deficit all rank above immigration in importance.1
- This does not mean immigration is unimportant to Hispanics. What is does mean is that it was not an issue that was important enough in 2010 to have a discernible impact on their overall turnout.
- Only 27 percent of Hispanic voters in the 2010 election were immigrants themselves (naturalized U.S. citizens) and just 14.9 percent lived in the same households as a non-citizen. The lack of direct personal experience with immigration may explain why the issue does not rank higher in importance to Hispanic voters.
- CNN’s national exit polls showed that, in 2010, 60 percent of Hispanics voted for Democrats and 38 percent voted for Republicans. This compares to 69 percent and 30 percent in the last mid-term election in 2006. If the failure to address immigration played a role in Hispanic voting, it seems to have helped Republicans.2
- However, the increase in the Republican share of the Hispanic vote in 2010 is almost certainly related to general voter dissatisfaction with the economy, and parallels gains that Republicans made among many demographic groups.
Here is a graph on Hispanic share of adults, citizens and voters from 2000 to 2010.
Note the lower rate of share of voters
Using the 2010 election as an example, the white electorate was 11 times larger in 2010 than the Hispanic electorate. This means that 1 percent of the white electorate equals 11 percent of the Hispanic electorate. Or put a different way, if a national candidate increased his or her share of the Hispanic vote by 11 percentage points, but in the process lost one percentage point of the white vote, there would no net gain in votes. Although the overall Hispanic population is now significantly larger than the overall black population, the black electorate is still much larger. In 2010, the black electorate was 64 percent larger than the Hispanic electorate.
Let’s look at Hispanics by state.
The size of the Hispanic vote varied significantly by state and Hispanics are concentrated in five states – California, Florida, Texas, New York and Arizona. As a share of voters, Hispanics were more than 30 per cent of the vote in New Mexico and between 10 and 20 per cent in California, Arizona,Texas and Florida.
There were six states (Nevada, New York, Colorado, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Illinois) in which Hispanics were between 5 and 10 percent of the electorate in 2010. Of these, Nevada and Colorado are often considered battleground states. In most of the other traditional battleground states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and New Hampshire, Hispanics are a small fraction of voters.
So, what this all mean?
Don’t look for Hispanic pandering to be a part of the national GOP election in 2012.
The path to winning the White House through the electoral college will not be through any states where Hispanics vote will make a difference, except perhaps in Florida, where a Cuban American Hispanics have an electoral presence in the GOP primary.