As we draw closer to the presidential election in 2016, there will inevitably be conversations among candidates about capturing votes from certain demographics, particularly those of minority groups such as African Americans and Hispanics. The votes of minority groups are often seen as crucial in deciding who becomes the next president of the United States. While some of these groups are particularly homogenous in voting behavior, others are not. An example of a group that tends to vote homogeneously are African Americans. In the 2008 presidential election, 95 percent of African Americans voted for Obama and in 2012, 93 percent of African Americans voted for Obama. From 1984 to 2012, the African American vote for the Democrat party averaged 89 percent. However, other minority groups do not share the general cohesion that the African American community has when it comes to voting for a particular party. The Hispanic segment of the population is one of those groups that is not particularly homogenous when it comes to voting behavior.
Since I myself am Hispanic, this topic is quite relevant to me, yet let there be no mistake that the topic of the "Latino Vote" is just as relevant (if not more so) to presidential candidates. Often times both candidates and the media will speak of the Hispanic vote as if it is a uniform bloc that generally votes one way or the other. However, that could not be further from the truth. In reality, the Hispanic vote is quite heterogenous despite the shared linguistic and religious links. Voting behavior among the Hispanic bloc is largely linked to the country of origin.
To further break this down, let's pick apart the Hispanic bloc a little more. Cuban Americans generally vote Republican and make up a significant part of Miami's population and Florida's population in general. Puerto Ricans tend to vote Democrat and are largely present in New York City and to a lesser extent in Philadelphia. Mexican Americans tend to vote Democrat and are spread out between the South West and California. Hispanics are also a racially diverse groups, with some Hispanics identifying as racially white while others identify as nonwhite. In a Gallup poll regarding the 2012 election, Whites (including Hispanics) voted 44 percent for Obama and 56 percent for Romney, while Nonwhites (including Hispanics) voted 82 percent for Obama and 18 percent for Romney. In contrast, Whites (Hispanics not included) voted 43 percent Obama and 57 percent Romney and Nonwhites (Hispanics not included) voted 89 percent Obama and 11 percent Romney.
It is worth noting that the Hispanic segment of the population suffers from several malaises which result in a diminishment of political power. Out of the entire Hispanic community within the U.S.,14.1 million foreign-born Hispanics do not have citizenship and an additional 10.8 million are unauthorized immigrants. These people make up a considerable chunk of the Hispanic population, yet lack the ability to have their voices heard and therefore hinder attempts to increase political power. Additionally, the mean age of the Hispanic population is 27.8 years, and since a good deal of the Hispanics who reside in the U.S. are under 18, they cannot vote as well. A third handicap is the language barrier that exists among some of the Hispanic population which leads to further complications when voting. Thus, the ability for the Hispanic population to increase their political power within the United States is considerably hampered.
That being said, both Republicans and Democrats have worked quite hard to ensure that Hispanic candidates have a presence within their respective parties. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) are excellent examples of those efforts.
If there's one thing that you take from this article, let it be that the "Latino Vote" is not nearly as homogenous as people might lead you to believe. Despite the handicaps presented towards the Hispanic portion of the population, we still see some gains being made by Hispanics (regardless of political affiliation) within the U.S. government.