Bloomberg News

Eligible Hispanic Vote Close to Doubling in 20 Years, Pew Finds

November 14, 2012

The number of Hispanic voters could double within two decades as 17.6 million young people reach 18, increasing the clout of an ethnic bloc that already showed its power in the presidential election, according to a report.

The Pew Hispanic Center said in the report that Latinos can become an even more important group of voters in the U.S. than they are now, when 71 percent supported President Barack Obama for re-election, according to exit polls, and helped him carry the battleground states of Colorado, Florida and Nevada.

Obama’s support among Hispanics was four percentage points higher than in 2008 and the highest since Bill Clinton in 1996 among presidential candidates.

“The record number of Latinos who cast ballots for president this year are the leading edge of an ascendant ethnic voting bloc that is likely to double in size within a generation,” according to the report released today.

Pew estimated that 12.5 million of the 23.7 million eligible Hispanic voters went to the polls, a turnout percentage less than either whites or blacks, where more than 60 percent cast ballots.

The growing number of young people who are now under 18 alone would increase the number of eligible Hispanic voters to 40 million by 2030. The number of actual voters would double from current levels if they went to the polls in numbers similar to other groups and if legal residents became naturalized citizens. The survey found 5.4 million Hispanics living in the U.S. legally who haven’t taken steps to become citizens.

Flexing Muscle

“The flexing of electoral muscle by Hispanic voters this year conceivably could encourage more legal immigrants to become naturalized citizens,” the report said.

The numbers would grow even more if the estimated 7.1 million undocumented Hispanic immigrants were given a path toward citizenship.

Congressional Republicans have blocked efforts to allow undocumented workers to remain legally in the U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, at a debate with party rivals in January, called for “self-deportation,” meaning Hispanics “decide that they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.”

Obama earlier this year said the government would no longer deport those brought to the U.S. as children and who have been here for at least five years, have no criminal record and are in school, graduated from high school or have been honorably discharged from the military.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who said his party has “built a wall” between it and Hispanic voters, said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Nov. 12 that he would restart bipartisan talks on a bill overhauling U.S. immigration policy.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio told ABC News on Nov. 8 that “a comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I’m confident that the president, myself, others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net.


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