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Which Way Will the Latino Vote Swing in 2010?

February 10, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger


This is an election year, and one question that will be the subject of speculation between now and Election Day is what role will Latinos play in this election.

Providing a review of recent history and some updated information, our friends over at America's Voice have issued a new report, The Power of the Latino Vote in the 2010 Elections.

The Latino electorate is growing rapidly. The report notes that in 2008, nearly 4 million more Latinos voted than voted in the 2000 elections-a growth of 64% nationally. In states that have experienced recent and rapid growth of the Latino population, the percentage increase in Latino voters between 2000 and 2008 was much more dramatic-up to 392% in the case of Georgia.

While the Latino vote grew during this time period, it also swung Democratic. The AV report zooms in on one segment of the Latino vote that made the most dramatic swing between the 2004 and 2008 Presidential Election: Latino immigrant voters. These voters-foreign born, naturalized U.S. citizens-barely went for Kerry in 2004 (52% - 48%), but voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008 (75% - 25%). These are the voters closest to the immigration debate, being immigrants themselves.

It is the economy, not immigration, that is the top concern of Latino voters, like it is for voters as a whole. However, immigration serves as a sort of character test for a candidate. As the report notes,

"The immigration issue serves as a way to define the "good guys" and the "bad guys" for Latinos. Because of the way many Republican policymakers have handled the immigration issue in Congress and campaigns over the last several years, the GOP brand is increasingly identified with people who want to deport Latino immigrants, while Democrats are generally seen as more welcoming."

The "immigration issue," comprehensive immigration reform, is still unresolved. As we get closer to the next election, the key questions are, for the Democrats, do they push the issue off for the future, and possibly "dampen enthusiasm for Democrats among the Latino electorate?" For Republicans,

"Does the GOP continue to embrace a restrictionist agenda, ignoring the demographic and political realities of a growing electorate that is gaining stature and getting energized?"

The bulk of the report consists of analysis of forty gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House races in twelve states where Latino voters matter most, and that are identified as "close" by either the Cook or Rothenberg Political Reports, or the parties themselves. The immigration positions of the candidates are examined.

It is always fascinating to watch a contest between one party that seems to be constantly looking for new ways to alienate large segments of the electorate and another party that seems to be too terrified to act to show voters it can actually solve problems. A lot can happen between now and Election Day. As this report implies, much of the Latino vote is riding on whether the immigration issue is solved or not.

Photo by Flickr User Adria Richards.

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