By George E. Curry
Although Latinos are growing at a faster rate than any other ethnic group in the United States, they will have less of an impact on whether Democrats retain control of the Senate than African Americans, according to a study of Census data by the Pew Research Center.
The report, titled, “Latino Voters and the 2014 Midterm Elections,” stated: “A record 25.2 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the 2014 midterm elections, making up, for the first time, 11% of all eligible voters nationwide. But despite a growing national presence, in many states with close Senate and gubernatorial races this year, Latinos make up a smaller share of eligible voters.”
Meanwhile, Democrats say it is unlikely they can retain control of the Senate without the Black vote in key states, including North Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas. Latinos will basically be a non-factor – at least, for now.
“California and Texas contain nearly half (46.4%) of all Latino eligible voters, but neither has been a battleground state in recent presidential elections. As a result, nearly half of Latino voters do not get the level of attention from campaigns that Latino voters who live in battleground states receive. And this year, neither state has a close Senate race.”
The report further noted, “…in the eight states with close Senate races, just 4.7% of eligible voters on average are Latinos. Among those states, Latinos make up less than 5% of eligible voters in six. Only in Colorado does the 14.2% Latino share among eligible voters exceed the 10.7% national average. Kansas is the only other state where the Latino share among eligible voters exceeds 5%. As a result, the impact of Latino voters in determining which party controls the U.S. Senate may not be as large as might be expected given their growing electoral and demographic presence nationwide.”
According to the report, “In other 2014 Senate races – none of which are competitive – Latinos make up more than 10% of eligible voters in just three: New Mexico, where Latinos make up 40.1% of eligible voters; Texas, where 27.4% of eligible voters are Latino; and New Jersey, where Latinos make up 12.8% of eligible voters.”
In the case of this year’s 14 competitive House races, the share of eligible voters who are Hispanic is, on average, 13.6 percent – slightly exceeding Hispanics’ 10.7 percent share nationwide, the report said.
Still, voting by Latinos is on the upswing.
Approximately 800,000 U.S. born Hispanics turn 18 each year, with at least 1 million expected to reach adulthood annually by 2024. By 2030, the number of Hispanic eligible voters is projected to top more than 40 million, according to the report.
“Since 2010, the number of Hispanic eligible voters has increased by 3.9 million. Their share among eligible voters nationally is also on the rise, up from 10.1% in 2010 and 8.6% in 2006 (Lopez, 2011), reflecting the relatively faster growth of the Hispanic electorate compared with other groups.”
Republicans currently hold 233 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and appear unlikely to lose control of the House. Among this year’s 14 toss-up races, most incumbents are Democrats.
“In the 36 states with gubernatorial races this year, nine have close races. Just as with competitive U.S. Senate races, Hispanics on average account for a smaller share of eligible voters in these races than they do nationally,” the report said. “Overall, 7.9% of eligible voters in these states are Hispanic, compared with a 10.7% share nationally. Among these states, three have Hispanic eligible voter shares above 10% (Florida with 17.1%, Colorado with 14.2% and Connecticut with 10.3%) and three have voter shares below 5% (Wisconsin 3.2%, Michigan 2.9% and Maine 1.0%).
In each midterm election since 1974, the number of Latino voters reached a new record high, largely reflecting the community’s fast population growth. However, the share of those Latinos who actually vote on Election Day—the voter turnout rate—has lagged significantly behind other racial and ethnic groups.
“During the 2010 midterm election, a record 6.6 million Hispanics voted, representing a turnout rate of 31.2%. But more than twice as many Hispanics—14.7 million—could have voted but did not (Lopez, 2011). By comparison, voter turnout rates were higher among blacks (44%) and whites (48.6%).”
Low voter participation rates among Hispanics can be attributed to many factors, including the relative youth of the Hispanic population.
In 2014, 33 percent of the Latino eligible voters are ages 18 to 29. However, among White eligible voters the figure is 18 percent; among Blacks, that share is 25 percent. Among Asians, 21 percent are between ages 18 and 29.
Even with African Americans strategically placed in important districts, the Democratic Party may have botched this election but doing limited work with grassroots groups and largely ignoring the Black Press until the final two weeks of the campaign.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.