Hispanic Voter Surge Imperils Republicans

The Census Bureau yesterday released voting and voter registration statistics for last year's election. The nuggets of insight that can be found in these ...
by | July 22, 2009

The Census Bureau yesterday released voting and voter registration statistics for last year's election. The nuggets of insight that can be found in these stats are almost endless. Did you know, for example, that an incredible 92.9% of blacks who were registered to vote actually voted on election day?

But, when it comes to the future of state and federal politics, it's hard to imagine that there's anything hidden in the data that is more consequential than the increase in Hispanic voters.

The Census estimates that there were 9.745 million Hispanic voters in 2008, compared to 7.587 million in 2004 -- an increase of 28.4%. Overall, an estimated 131.114 million Americans voted in 2008, compared to 125.736 million in 2004, an increase of just 4.3%. Another way of looking at it: there were 5.4 million additional votes cast in 2008 compared to 2004 and about 2.2 million of them were cast by Hispanics.

Obama took 67% of the vote from Latinos according to exit polling. That's a problem for Republicans, especially because the Hispanic voter growth is not limited to just a few states.

Below, you'll see the percentage increase in Hispanic voters from 2004 to 2008 in each state where Hispanics were at least 2% of voters in 2008. Since the margins of error for the state-specific numbers are rather high, I wouldn't dwell too long on why a particular state's number is what it is (for example, Massachusetts might not have actually had fewer Hispanic voters in 2008 than 2004).

The data are more meaningful when you think in terms of regions. In 2008, dramatically more Hispanics voted in the Northeast, the South, the West Coast and the Mountain West. While Hispanic voters still are concentrated in the Southwest, they are a rapidly growing political force in every part of the country, except perhaps the Midwest. Here's the chart of Hispanic voting by state:

Hispanic Voting

You can see why President Bush and his political team made outreach to Hispanics a priority. Their efforts, though, appear to have only won the Republicans temporary gains.

The challenge for Republicans is the same that it has been for years now: satisfying Republican base voters (on immigration in particular), while reaching out to Hispanics. But, the urgency has changed. This isn't just a long-term problem for the G.O.P. anymore. Rather, in dozens of states, Republicans will have to do a better job courting Hispanics to win elections in 2010, 2012 and beyond.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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