NEW YORK, NY – A new analysis by the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP) of recently released statistics from the Census Bureau on voting and registration in the November 2008 election reveals the tremendous growth potential of the Latino electorate. “While in many respects Latino political participation lags behind that of non-Latinos, its growth is impressive and indicates that this so-called ‘electoral sleeping giant’ is yet to be fully awakened,” concluded Angelo Falcón, president of the institute, who conducted the analysis.




According to the Census Bureau, over 9.7 million Latinos voted in the November 2008 Presidential elections, representing 7.4 percent of total voters. This 7.4 percent figure of the Latino share of the total vote is far smaller than the 10 percent that was being estimated last year by many.

On the other hand, the number of Latinos registered to vote was 11.6 million, representing 7.9 percent of the total registered to vote. This indicates that Latino get-out-the-vote mobilization fell short of registration efforts. “There is a consistent 10 percentage point gap between registration and voting percentages of eligible Latino voters in 2004 and 2008 that points to the potential growth of this Latino vote if fully mobilized,” Falcón points out.

In the November 2008 election, Mexicans were the majority of Latino voters (53.3 percent). Puerto Ricans were 14.4 percent, Cubans 1.1 percent, Central/South Americans 1.3 percent, and other Spanish 0.5 percent of total Latino voters.

These statistics reveal that the growth potential for the Latino electorate remains enormous. Of the 19.5 million Latinos who were US citizens and 18 and over in age, only 59.4 percent were registered to vote last year and only 49.9 percent actually voted. The voter turnout rate (those who voted divided by those registered) was 84.0 percent.

Latino registration and voter turnout rates continued to lag behind non-Latinos. Compared to the Latino voter registration rate of 59.4 percent, the rate for non-Latinos was 72.2 percent. Compared to a voter turnout rate of 84.0 percent, the rate for non-Latinos was 90.1 percent. “This racial-ethnic disparity in voting is a persistent problem for American democracy, which distorts which groups are fairly represented in the electorate,” observed Falcón.

Despite these lags in participation rates, the growth of Latino registration and voting numbers was impressive, reflecting the factor of continuing dramatic population growth. In terms of the number of Latino voters, between the 2004 and 2009 elections there was an increase of 2.2 million, or 28.4 percent. This compares to an increase of non-Latino voters between 2004 and 2008 of only 4.3 percent.

The percent 2004-2008 increase of Latino voters varied for the different Latino subgroups. It was 49.2 percent for Central/South Americans, 36.8 percent for Cubans, 35.3 percent for Puerto Ricans, 23.6 percent for Mexicans, and 6.3 percent for Other Spanish.

“The Latino vote is clearly the vote of the future. It is clear that the Republican Party, as they take positions of special interest to the Latinos voter, like the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, comprehensive immigration reform, the political status of Puerto Rico, and others, needs to understand this reality. For the Democrats, well, they need to understand that continuing to take Latinos for granted by excluding them from leadership positions and not addressing their issues with any urgency, could be the factors that fully awake this ‘electoral sleeping giant’,” concluded Falcón.

These statistics are from the November 2008 Current Population Survey (CPS). This is a monthly survey of about 57,000 households (excluding Puerto Rico), although this file has only November data. Please note that because this is a sample survey that there are margins of error for these statistics that are not presented in the above analysis. In addition, this survey was not designed to estimate total populations and it is used primarily to compare population characteristics. Many of the statistics in this NiLP analysis have not be published before, especially those on the Latino subgroups.

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