The Latino Electorate in 2010: More Voters, More Non-Voters
More than 6.6 million Latinos voted in last year's election—a record for a midterm—according to an analysis of new Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. Latinos also were a larger share of the electorate in 2010 than in any previous midterm election, representing 6.9% of all voters, up from 5.8% in 2006.
Rapid population growth has helped fuel Latinos' increasing electoral participation. According to the Census Bureau, 50.5 million Hispanics were counted by the 2010 Census, up from 35.3 million in 2000. Over the same decade, the number of Latino eligible voters—adults who are U.S. citizens—also increased, from 13.2 million in 2000 to 21.3 million in 2010.
However, even though more Latinos than ever are participating in the nation's elections, their representation among the electorate remains below their representation in the general population. In 2010, 16.3% of the nation's population was Latino, but only 10.1% of eligible voters and fewer than 7% of voters were Latino.
This gap is driven by two demographic factors—youth and non-citizenship. More than one third of Latinos (34.9%) are younger than the voting age of 18. And an additional 22.4% are of voting age, but are not U.S. citizens. As a result, the share of the Latino population eligible to vote is smaller than it is among any other group. Just 42.7% of the nation's Latino population is eligible to vote, while more than three-in-four (77.7%) of whites, two-thirds of blacks (67.2%) and more than half of Asians (52.8%) are eligible to vote.
Yet, even among eligible voters, Latino participation rates lag those of other groups. In 2010, 31.2% of Latino eligible voters say they voted, while nearly half (48.6%) of white eligible voters and 44.0% of black eligible voters said the same.
This gap in voter participation between Latinos and other groups is partly due to the large share of Latino eligible voters that are under 30. In 2010, 31.3% of Latino eligible voters were ages 18 to 29, while 19.2% of white, 25.6% of black and 20.7% of Asian eligible voters were under 30. Among young Latino eligible voters, just 17.6% voted. In contrast, among Latino eligible voters ages 30 and older, the voter turnout rate was higher—37.4%.
The gap in voter participation between Latinos and others is also partly due to fast growth in the number of Latinos who do not vote, but are eligible to do so. Between 2006 and 2010 the number of Latino voters increased by 18.8%, but the number of Latino non-voters increased more rapidly, by 25.0%.
Differences in voter turnout rates exist among Latino eligible voters. In 2010, Latino college graduates had the highest voter turnout rate (50.3%) among Latino eligible voters, while young Latinos ages 18 to 29 had the lowest (17.6%). Differences in participation rates also exist by country of origin. Nearly half (49.3%) of Cuban origin Latinos voted in 2010 compared with 29.6% of Puerto Rican origin Latinos and 28.7% of Mexican origin Latinos. Similarly, a greater share of naturalized foreign-born Latinos than native born Latinos voted—36.6% versus 29.2%.Read the full report at pewhispanic.org.
Mark Hugo Lopez is Associate Director at Pew Hispanic Center. Prior to joining the Pew Hispanic Center, Lopez was Research Director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) as well as a Research Assistant Professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. His areas of expertise include labor economics, civic engagement, voting behavior and the economics of education. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University.
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