Will Latin American voters soon have a significant say in how one the world’s most powerful countries is run? The changing demography of many American states suggests that the answer could be yes and that Latin American voters are a growing force to contend with. A record 23.7 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center.
The Guardian reports that the country's growing Latino population is projected to be almost a third of the US population by 2050, having already tripled since 1986. However, at least at the moment, they appear not to be using their potential for greater power. Less than a third of Latino eligible voters actually voted in 2010 compared with almost half of all white people and 44% of black Americans.
Latinos in America are a mixed bunch; some with full US citizenship and others transient in occupations such as fruit picking. However, it is clear that going forward the real punch will come from the young American born Latin American population – with slowly more and more passing the age of 18. Every year about 600,000 American Latinos with full voting rights turn 18, and currently more than a third of the Latino population are still under the age of 18.
So what do Latinos in America want? What are their moral standpoints and their views on the economy? While residency issues are currently a hot topic, I don’t think we can assume that all Latin American voters have the same opinions as a voting block.
The Pew Research Centre report casts little light on these issues. However, it clear that the Latino electorate is demographically different from other groups of eligible voters. For one, it is much younger with 32% younger than 30. At least according to the Young Democrats of America (hmmm a biased source?!), young African-Americans and young Hispanics are particularly inclined to support Democrats, with the economy high among young voters concerns. I imagine that unemployment and jobs top the list this year at least for young voters. An article in the New Scientist last month concludes that the "wealthy, ageing white population of America must be prepared to invest in young Hispanics" to protect their "golden future" due to the current economic disparity. It will be interesting going forward to see how the increasing Latino population affects, or even sways, American politics.