University of Southern California

Election 2012


Latino Voters: Texas and Beyond

March 7, 2008

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Changing Latino demographics in Texas helped Hillary Clinton to victory in that state’s primary, says Harry Pachon of the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development. A report by the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute predicts a similar surge of Latino voting power at the polls in November.

“Latino voters were a key component in Texas, especially in the southern part of the state, where you have long-established, more-than-100-year-old Latino communities from El Paso south down to the Rio Grande,” says Pachon, who is president of the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute at USC. “But it’s also being complemented by the influx of Latino immigrants from Mexico and South America into Houston, which has become a major port of entry, due primarily to the airline connection.” Dallas has also seen a dramatic increase in the number of Latino residents, he notes.

“The Latino presence traditionally could be seen as occupying southern Texas, but is now catching up throughout state,” Pachon explains.

“This is really the first election where the Latino segment has been seen as a significant force,” he says. This year, the earlier California and Nevada primaries meant that “Latino states” became very significant, Pachon says. The close horse race between Clinton and Barack Obama also inspired increased focus on America’s largest ethnic minority group.

“The Texas primary really has brought to salience the impact of the Latino vote. Now it’s acknowledged as part of the very rich soup that makes up the American electorate,” Pachon says.

At the General Election, Nine Million Strong

The Tomás Rivera Policy Institute at USC projects that 9.3 million Latino voters will go to the polls in the November general election. This represents an increase of more than 1.7 million voters, or 23 percent, over 2004.

According to Pachon, two streams are feeding this growth: increased numbers of naturalized immigrants, and more Latino young people reaching voting age.

The potential impact of a Latino voting bloc is particularly high in states with large concentrations of Latinos, according to the institute’s report. For instance, in California, it takes a mere 3.1 percent of statewide Latino voters to cause a 1 percent statewide shift in vote for a presidential candidate. Similarly, in Florida only 4.5 percent of Latino voters are needed to create a 1 percent statewide shift in the vote.

“Even in non-traditional Latino states, such as Pennsylvania and Washington, we will see thousands of Latino voters in 2008,” Pachon concludes.

National Latino Vote in U.S. Presidential Elections
Year    Turnout
1980    2,453,000
1984    3,092,000
1988    3,710,000
1992    4,238,000
1996    4,928,000
2000    5,934,000
2004    7,587,000
2008*  9,320,277

* The projected number of voters nationwide was derived using an exponential growth equation, and U.S. Census Bureau data on previous elections.

Founded in 1985, the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute at USC is a Los Angeles-based, objective research organization addressing issues affecting Latino communities around the United States.

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