Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Trying to wake the sleeping giant of Latino voters: 52% of eligibles didn't cast ballots in 2012

The nation's growing Latino population could be the difference in the presidential election, if only enough of them would vote, Marcela Valdes writes for The New York Times. Each year another 800,000 Latinos turn 18, making them eligible to vote, and overall there are 27 million Latinos of voting age in the U.S. But only 48 percent of eligible Latino voters cast ballots in the 2012 presidential election, compared to 66.2 percent of African Americans and 64.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

"Journalists have been writing about the so-called 'sleeping giant' of Hispanic voters since at least the 1970s, but the fact is that voter turnout among Latinos remains dismal," Valdes writes. "While the raw number of Latino ballots cast has tripled since 1998, so has the number of Latino citizens who don’t vote. Only once in the past 28 years, during the 1992 match among George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot that spurred a jump in overall turnout, has Latino turnout exceeded 50 percent." (NYT graphic: Percent of eligible voters who cast ballots from 1988-2012)
Some think Republican candidate Donald Trump's anti-immigration stance and his negative remarks about Mexicans will finally wake the sleeping giant, Valdes writes. Javier Palomarez, president and chief executive of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told Politico in 2015: “I think the greatest thing to ever happen to the Hispanic electorate is a gentleman named Donald Trump. He has crystallized the angst and anger of the Hispanic community. I think we can all rest assured that Hispanics can turn out in record numbers.”

Valdes writes, "But achieving record turnout for a demographic with a lackluster voting history isn’t so simple as watching them take themselves to the polls. In July, the Pew Research Center noted that 'Hispanic voters lag all registered voters on several measures of engagement' — they aren’t paying attention to election news as closely as other citizens and they aren’t thinking about the election as much."

"The problem isn’t their youth, poverty or lack of education," Valdes writes. "The problem is that when you’re poor, young or undereducated, it takes more effort to overcome your immigrant family’s low levels of political socialization. For first-generation Americans, politics is often just one more cultural expression that they must decipher on their own. It’s rarely a priority. The immigrant parents that I spoke with swam rivers and boarded airplanes to escape violence, to earn money, to educate their children. Learning to play American politics was never on the agenda." (Read more)

No comments: