The final results after the 2014 midterm elections revealed that the political map of United States has grown more conservative after the wide success of the Republicans in last Tuesday’s elections, in which the GOP retained control of Congress gained control of the Senate. Governorships were awarded to Republican candidates even in states considered bastions for Democrats.
Strategists, journalists, and pollsters are now analyzing who turned out to vote and who did not by studying demographics of gender, age, education, income, race and ethnicity. From these studies, Hispanics are a huge segment of the population that could make (or break) elections. Hispanics are a growing number of potential voters, with almost 28.2 million who will be eligible to vote in the 2016. According to Pew Hispanic Center projections, “Hispanics will account for 40% of the growth in the eligible electorate in the U.S. between now and 2030, at which time 40 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote.”
Experts believe that this demographic group could potentially tilt the outcome of an election. Democrats and Republicans both want the Latino vote, and their candidates haven’t resist temptation to pander and point Hispanics…but most of the time, in reference to immigration issues.
Politicians should keep in mind is that among legal Hispanics residents in this country who are eligible to vote, the number one issue concerning them is not illegal immigration. Furthermore, Hispanics who have emerged as a decisive voting bloc are rapidly changing. For this diverse community, current appeals for their votes by both parties are not as effective as politicians might hope. Latinos demand real action, not ‘hispandering,’ in exchange for votes. Democrats and Republicans have lost Hispanics voters when Latino strategists don’t dig deep enough to provide Hispanic insights into campaigns that address what matters most to these voting blocs.
Heritage Foundation Senior Mike Gonzalez, author of A Race for the Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans said that election campaign makers have to correct the erroneous assumption that Hispanics are a homogeneous group and present an unvarnished look at the challenges Latinos face in America. Gonzalez also claims that Hispanics as a growing political power should not have been kept separate from mainstream America, which also consigns them to underclass status. “Bureaucratic decisions that only encourage public assistance and discourage assimilation hinder Hispanics and allow them to be politically monopolized”, He said. Gonzalez believes that politicians should support policies that would help Hispanics thrive, such as educational options, family values and financial freedom.
According to Pew Research, education—followed closely by jobs, the economy, and healthcare—is the top issue among Hispanics and considered more important that immigration. Immigration ranked fifth, after the federal government debt.
When referring to issues of education cost inflation, you must also include the discussion of minimum wage issues. In 2010, Hispanic unemployment peaked at 12.3% compared with 8.9% among non-Hispanics. In some respects, Hispanic focus on education as a top issue makes sense, as one-in-three Hispanics are under 18, compared with 20% of white Americans. In the article Is Immigration Drowning Out Other Latino Issues?, Nayeli Reyes, an educator at a predominately Hispanic charter school in Los Angeles, said that millions of Latinos have been affected by immigration status with their parents, and that can affect everything from college affordability to keeping their family intact. However, there are other millions of Latinos lives are not directly impacted by immigration issues in their family, but the issue is still very important—just not the primary concern.
Health care also affects Latinos, and they have long faced the nation’s highest uninsured rates. Overall, the percentage of Latinos from age 19 to 64 who lack health coverage fell from 36% to 23% between summer 2013 and spring 2014. Young Latino men want access to an affordable education and young Latina women want access to contraception and the ability to make decisions for themselves and their body. Latino strategists seem to ignore that the average Latina voter is 27 years old, compared with the average American voter who is 40 or 42.
“Young Latinas actually lead their demographic over and over when it comes to participation,” said Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO and President of Voto Latino. “About 51 percent of eligible Latinas go out and vote while with young men, typically 39 percent of them will.” she said.
Latinas pay attention to women’s health, particularly reproductive rights. “Family remains a huge factor within the Latino community, but just like other young women, many Latinas are delaying marriage in order to focus on their careers” Kumar said. Some politicians have noticed this fact. For example, Republican Greg Abbott, the winner of gubernatorial election in Texas, spent $1.1 million on Spanish-language ads, running against reproductive rights champion Wendy Davis.
There is vast diversity among Hispanic voters. Hispanic millennials belong to a unique niche of voters that are overlooked by both Democrats and Republicans. Hispanic millennials are analyzed as just one vote, when they should be studied as a complex group with many interests. Unlike other millennials, this generation of Hispanics has no history of their parents voting, as they are the first ones in their families who are eligible voters.
“The idea of sparking interest in politics to them is very important because if we get them excited about voting there’s the likelihood that their parents and family will get engaged with them,” Kumar said.
Hispanic millennials acknowledge that both parties overgeneralized immigration as the most important issue facing Hispanics. Unfortunately, many Hispanics feel that both parties have a tendency to unfairly stereotyped them (especially millennials who are also U.S. citizens and eligible voters). To them, being Hispanic doesn’t necessarily mean that immigration is a top issue. Millennial’s perfect candidate is a person who realizes that Hispanic issues are simply American issues, according to Kumar. Today, Hispanics prefer a political candidate that retains and understand that it’s less about legislation and more overall about life. Hispanics recognize the value of family and the importance of not tearing families apart. If political candidates do not acknowledge that, young Hispanics will be the hardest to reach in 2016 election.
The statistics reflect the political clout of Latinos and explains two key points that lend an understanding of this voting bloc. First, they are not monolithic and cannot be generalized by just the name “Hispanic” or “Latino.” There is great diversity within this category of vast, different nationalities, and political loyalties are determined by family history and geographic location within the country. Secondly, although traditionally Hispanics have voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party, they have many things in common with conservative Republicans. Although the issues that matter most to Latinos are education, economy, and health, they are conservative on social issues. Unfortunately, anti-immigrant rhetoric by the Republican party has made even Latino conservatives vote against the party.
Past lessons from previous elections are clear. It is no longer possible to reach potential voters without having a strategic focus on Hispanics. The first step should be to gain an understanding of how to find Hispanics across a crowded media landscape that continues to fragment. There must also be consistency in the way politicians treat the Hispanic media, as they are just as important as the non-Hispanic media. Political candidates also need to change the way they campaign in the Latino community by respecting language breaks, demonstrating respect, and building trust through Spanish language media outreach. Politicians must also be prepared to address the key issues Hispanics feel they should address—such as education, jobs/economy, healthcare and comprehensive immigration reform. They must work hard to Identify the key issues impacting Hispanics in their own community and ultimately, not stereotype and include millennials in one group, since they are the future!
The growing importance of the Hispanic vote and how candidates can court and reach the Latino community is going to play a very important role in the 2016 elections and every other election cycle in the near future.