According to a recent Pew Research Center study, Latino millennials comprise the majority of eligible Latino voters at 44 percent. In addition to being the largest group among its own race, Latino millennials also make up the largest eligible voting block out of all races and generations. But despite potentially having such a great influence on the election, many of the projected 27.3 million Latino voters especially the millennials will likely not go out to the polls, based on past voting trends.
In 2012, only 48 percent of eligible Latino voters actually voted. This stacks up poorly with other groups (not including Asians, who only saw 46.9 percent of their eligible voters cast a ballot and statistically tend to vote at even lesser rates than Hispanics): that year, 64.1 percent of eligible white voters went to the polls, as did 66.6 percent of Blacks.
A reason Latino voters do not have as much of an impact as they statistically could is location. Areas with high Latino populations are generally not the same areas that presidential candidates emphasize in their campaigns. “In presidential elections, candidates often focus their outreach efforts in [key battleground] states, raising the chances that a voter may be contacted and possibly turn out to vote,” the report explains. “For example, the Latino-rich states of California, Texas and New York are not likely to be presidential tossup states. Together, these three account for 52% of all Latino eligible voters in 2016.” If a state is not a swing state, not only will candidates not focus on encouraging voters in these states to cast a ballot but citizens, assuming their vote will not make a difference, may be less likely to go out and vote.
Presidential candidates would have a lot to gain if they focused their campaigning efforts on this large group of voters, though, especially given the upward trend in Latino voting over the past two presidential elections. In 2008, 9.7 million Latinosvoted, which served as the record until 2012, when 11.2 million voted. (Although the number of voters increased, it actually went down as a percentage due to the recent surge in the Latinopopulation in 2008, 49.9 percent of eligible Latinovoters went out to the polls, while 2012 saw 48 percent). So it is very possible that 2016 will also follow suit, meaning that encouraging the Latino community to vote should be a focal point for presidential hopefuls.
However, some candidates have yet to employ this strategy. Republican party frontrunner Donald Trump, for instance, has continuously insulted Latinos since the very first day of his campaign when he called people from Mexico (which is the country of origin for 64.6 percent of Latinos in America) criminals and rapists. He also called for a mass deportation of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the Untied States but still insists, “The Latinos love Trump, and I love them.” But not all Latinos feel this way, as many prominent Latino groups stood in solidarity against Trump following his most disparaging remarks.
Ohio Gov. and fellow GOP candidate John Kasich, who is currently at 1 percent according to the latest CNN/ORC poll, also made racist comments against Latinos several months ago when he said, “[Latinos] are great, caring, hardworking folks. And a lot of them do jobs that they’re willing to do. That’s why in the hotel you leave a little tip, you know”
In addition to location, another factor contributing to the poor Latino turnout at the polls is age. While it sounds exciting to have so many young eligible voters in the Latino community, millennials vote at a lower rate than other age groups. Data from the The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) states that not only has voter turnout decreased since 1978, but younger voters have consistently voted at lower rates than older ones. In 2014, only 19.9 percent of eligible voters aged 18 to 29 turned out for the election, compared to 47.9 percent of voters aged 30 and older. According to CIRCLE, 2016 can expect a better turnout: “Presidential election years, such as 2016, have always seen youth turnout rates to raise about twice as high, if not higher.” But even if the 2014 turnout was doubled for the 18-to-29-voter block and unchanged for the group 30 and older, young voters the potentially most influential block for Latinos would still come up short.
And Latino millennials have been even less likely to vote than millennials among other racial groups. Only 37.8 percent of eligible Latino millennials voted in 2012, compared to 47.5 percent of white and 55 percent of Black millennials. (Asian millennials came in almost at the same rate as Latinos at 37.3 percent). For other racial groups, the gap between the percentage of millennial voters and voters in older generations is smaller. Gen x-ers make up 26 percent of the total for Latino voters, while the baby boomer and silent/greatest generations make up 22 and 7 percent, respectively. For Blacks, millennials also make up the largest percent of voters at 35 percent, but they are followed closely by baby boomers and gen X-ers at 29 and 27 percent, respectively. For whites, meanwhile, boomers comprise most of the voters at 34 percent.
If candidates put an emphasis on getting Latinos to vote, it could make or break the election, according to the report: “With this rapid growth, the Latino electorate is projected to make up a record 11.9% of all U.S. eligible voters in 2016 and will pull nearly even with blacks, who will make up 12.4%. As a result, the Latino vote may be poised to have a large impact on the 2016 presidential election.”